and Russia President Vladimir Putin
at a press conference
on July 16, 2018
I think there can be no doubt, Putin is just such a person, and I am very much inclined to say, the preeminent one of our time.
Frankly, compared with Putin's skills, Donald Trump comes off as a noisy circus act, a sideshow carnival barker, and not an appealing one. He has an outsized impact in the world only because he represents the most powerful country on earth and has embraced all the prejudices and desires of its power establishment, not because of the skillfulness of his actions or the insight of his mind.
Obama made a better public impression, but if you analyze his actions, you see a man of immense and unwarranted ego, a very secretive and unethical man, and a man who held no worthy ideals he promoted.
He was superficial in
many things. And he was completely compliant to the power
establishment, leaving no mark of his own to speak of.
That's quite a list...
After all, if the support isn't there for someone like Putin, you won't get him. Russia's huge Soviet empire collapsed in humiliation in 1991.
The country was put through desperate straits, literally its own great depression with people begging or selling pathetic trinkets on the streets. And America made no real effort to assist.
Indeed, quite the opposite, it kicked someone who was down and tried to shake all the loose change from his pockets.
Out of Russia's
desperation came a man of remarkable skills, a rather obscure
figure, but one who proved extremely popular and was obviously
supported by enough powerful and important people to employ his
skills for the county's recovery and advance.
He was, of course, excoriated in the United States, but to the best of my understanding, he did what was necessary for progress. The results are to be seen in a remarkably revitalized Russia.
Everywhere, important projects are underway.
Putin also has committed
Russia to offering the world grain crops
free of all GMOs and other
contaminants, a very insightful effort to lock-in what have been
growing premium markets for such products, even among Americans.
In strategic weapons, Russia now produces several unprecedented ones, a great achievement which was done without spending unholy amounts of money, Russia's military budget being less than a tenth that of the United States.
Putin's caution and pragmatism dictate that Russia's first priority is to become as healthy as possibly, so it needs peace, for decades.
Few Westerners appreciate the devastating impact of the USSR's collapse, but even before that, the Soviet empire had its own slow debilitating impact. Russia's economic system was not efficient and competitive. The effects of that over many years accumulated.
The USSR always did
maintain the ability to produce big engineering projects such as
dams and space flight, but it always was sorely lacking in the small
and refined things of life that an efficient economy automatically
sees are provided.
And it has been running tanks all over Europe and then digging them in them right at the frontier just to make a point. It has deployed multiple-use covered missile launchers not far from the border which may as easily contain offensive intermediate-range ground-to-ground nuclear missiles as the defensive anti-missile missiles claimed to be their purpose.
And it has torn up one of the most important nuclear-weapons treaties we had, the INF Treaty, pertaining to intermediate-range missiles.
Intermediate-range nuclear missiles based in Europe give the United States the ability to strike Russia with little warning, their ten-minute flight path compares to a roughly thirty-minute flight path for an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) coming from America.
These are extremely de-stabilizing, as are the counter-measures Russia felt it must take, Russian intermediate-range nuclear missile aimed at European centers. Everyone eventually recognized that, and that's why the treaty was successfully completed.
Europeans appreciated no
longer becoming the immediate battlefield in a nuclear war.
Despite its readiness to participate in all Western organizations and forums and discussions, it is viewed with a new hostility by America. It is arbitrarily regarded as an opponent, as an ongoing threat.
As I discuss below,
America, too, has been in kind of a decline, and the response of its
leadership to that fact involves flexing its muscles and extracting
concessions and privileges and exerting a new dominance in the
world, a response not based in economic competition and diplomatic
leadership, a response carrying a great deal of danger.
It has in the recent past refused for considerable periods to pay its treaty-obliged dues until it saw changes it unilaterally demanded.
It has dropped out of some important agencies completely, most notably UNESCO. In general, it has intimidated an international organization into better accommodating American priorities, including very much imperial ones opposed to what the UN is supposed to be about.
And it has used this intimidation and non-cooperativeness to influence the nature of leadership at the UN, the last few Secretaries-General being timid on very important matters and ineffective in general. That's just the way America likes them to be now.
A harsh Neocon like
Madeleine Albright won her government-service spurs at the UN by
engineering the departure of an unwanted Secretary-General.
There is a long postwar record, including,
But the recent coup in Ukraine represented something rather new, a very provocative activity right on a major Russian border.
It was also against an elected government and in a country which shares with Russia a history and culture going back more than a thousand years to the predecessor state of Kievan Rus.
Yes, there are resentments in Ukraine from the Soviet era, and those are what the United States exploited, but the country was democratically governed. In any event, staging a coup in a large bordering country is a very serious provocation.
You can just imagine the
violent American reaction to one in Mexico or Canada.
Of course, none of it was ever true.
American spy satellites would quickly detect any Russian movement, and they never did. In an effort to put the wild claims into perspective, treating them with the contempt they deserved, Putin once said that if he wanted to, he could be in Kiev in two weeks. Undoubtedly true, too.
Well, the statement was
taken completely out of context, treated as a threat by America's
always-faithful-to-the-narrative press. Journalism in the service of
government policy - all of it, from the most elevated newspapers and
broadcasters to the humblest. And I think that nicely illustrates
the absurdity of events in Ukraine and the way they have been used.
The idea was to threaten Russia with the long Ukrainian border being put into genuinely hostile hands.
Never mind that the government driven from office with gunfire in the streets from paid thugs was democratically elected. Never mind that many of the groups with which the United States cooperated in this effort were right-wing extremists, a few of them resembling outright Nazis, complete with armbands and symbols and torchlight parades.
And never mind that the
government America installed was incompetent, not only sending
Ukraine's economy into a tailspin but promptly igniting a completely
unnecessary civil war.
It's a deliberately provocative environment, and, as we all know from our press, not a day goes by in Washington without anti-Russian rhetoric and unsupported charges. While Washington greatly failed in this effort, it nevertheless succeeded in generating instability and hostility along a major Russian border.
It also gained talking
points with which to pressure NATO into some new arrangements.
Just one of those little ironies of history...
The people who live in Crimea speak Russian, and they did not welcome the new Ukrainian government's heavy-handed, nationalist, anti-Russian drive around Ukrainian language and culture, necessarily a narrow, claustrophobic effort since the late USSR was a multi-national and multi-lingual state, and given Crimea's much longer-term history as part of Russia.
Even during Crimea's
recent past as part of Ukraine, Russia continued to maintain, under
lease, its major naval base at Sevastopol on the Black Sea, so the
connections with Russia have been continuous.
It simply is not an accurate description, but its constant use is a very good measure of America's ability to saturate media with its desired version of events. The people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to secede from an unfriendly new Ukraine, and they voted to petition Russia's admitting them as part of the country.
How can you call the results of free and open votes annexation?
Well, only the same way you can tell the twice-elected President of Venezuela that he is not President and that another man, who did not even run in the election and administered the oath of office to himself, is the President.
This is the kind of Alice-in-Wonderland stuff that comes as part of America's new drive for dominance. It simply paints the roses red.
What is claimed to have happened in Crimea provides the only support for charges of Russian aggression, the laying on of all kinds of sanctions, and running around all over Europe tearing up road surfaces with tanks. This is the atmosphere within which Putin must work, trying to maintain as many sound relationships with Europe as he can, and he actually has been quite successful.
A number of prominent European politicians, especially retired ones who aren't under the immediate pressures of politics and relations with America, have voiced support for Russia.
Some have even visited Crimea by invitation and toured.
And Russia's major new gas pipeline into Europe, Nord Stream 2, proceeds despite constant American pressure against it. It is at this writing 70% complete. The Europeans cannot just abandon their long-term ally, the United States, even though I'm sure they understand the illusions and false claims of the current situation.
The United States also
retains considerable capacity to hurt Europe financially, so they
rush into nothing, but I believe there can be no doubt that American
words and actions have significantly weakened old and important
relationships. No one likes being lied to, and they like even less
having to pretend lies are truth.
The people there declared two republics, Donetsk and Luhansk, and they petitioned to be admitted as part of Russia.
But Russia does not officially recognize them although it has sent large volumes of aid as they were besieged by the new Ukrainian government. The government of Ukraine started a small civil war in the region. Russia supports the Minsk Accords, which it helped to write, accords to reunite the region with Ukraine but which require Ukraine to grant it a degree of constitutional autonomy to the region.
This is a reasonable approach to ending the conflict, but it is not easy to implement.
It is not something looked favorably upon by Ukraine's right-wing extremists who push the government hard, having even threatened it at times. The entire business has been mired in difficulties from the start.
Ukraine displayed remarkable military incompetence in this civil war against a much smaller opponent. It tried to increase the size of its forces with conscription in the West of Ukraine, but the number of no-shows and run-aways grew embarrassingly large.
And, of course, none of this even needed to happen had the new government's policies been sensible and fair in the first place. But you got no pressure from the United States over fairness. It is merely content to have caused a lot of difficulties on Russia's border.
And there is the matter of the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines' Flight MH-17, which my study of the circumstances suggests unequivocally was an act by Ukraine, whether accidental or deliberate.
The United States has pushed hard to have this blamed on Russia, so as to not discredit its installed Ukrainian government, but the facts, as we know them, simply do not support that conclusion. The United States has shamefully pressured a NATO member, Holland, not even a central party to the event, to conduct a long and tortoise-paced investigation of the crash.
It has ignored key evidence, and all of its interim conclusions can readily be seen as couched in the kind of suggestive but inexact language criminal lawyers advise their clients to use in court.
What we see in Ukraine,
is government incompetence, almost uniformly in all its activities,
and again there is no concern expressed by the United States about
all the difficulties - economic, military, and social - its efforts
have caused for the Ukrainian people.
You must always remember that NATO does represent a vehicle for the peaceful American occupation of Europe, Europe being an important economic competitor and potentially a major world power.
The obsolescence of the
original arguments for NATO - the threat of the USSR and the
massive Red Army, now both long passed into history - had the
potential to see America eventually lose its occupying perch in
Certainly, countries like Estonia or Latvia bring neither military nor economic strength to the organization.
Other small states, such as,
...just fill holes in the map of Europe, so NATO is a contiguous mass.
The small states are in fact potentially a serious drag. But for America, they were attractive new members because they are so grateful about being asked,
Their votes as part of the organization effectively dilute the influence of the larger, older states, such as France or Germany, who sometimes disagree with the United States, and some of whom have been developing new relationships with modern Russia.
The entire series of
American activities in Europe after the disappearance of the USSR
represents absolutely nothing constructive, indeed, quite the
America's establishment has come to realize that over the last couple of decades it is in a relative decline. It went from producing, after WWII, about forty percent of what the world used to twenty-something percent, and all signs point to the trend continuing.
America was waking-up from an extended fantasy - a period when fluffy notions like "the American Dream" were embraced as real, a period explained by the simple fact that after the war all of America's serious competitors had been flattened. America was waking to a time when those competitors were coming back and a time when fierce new competitors were rising.
The "Dream" part of the
advertising slogan, "the American Dream," became all too
The entire ethic of
the New Deal period evaporated, and by the 1990s, a Democratic
Clinton could actually make a
speech bragging about "ending welfare as we know it."
Dominance became an openly-discussed theme, as it rarely was before, in the hope, over time, of squeezing concessions and advantages from others to regain or at least hold on to its global position.
This is an openly aggressive posture that has been assumed. No more pretense of being a nice guy.
And it was actively promoted by a new political faction in Washington, the Neocons, a group who share certain interests and see America's use of power as serving those interests. They have been open advocates of using military force to get things you want, and they hold many important and influential posts.
Perhaps their greatest
common interest is the welfare of Israel, and they see an
America perceived as aggressive best serving Israel's security.
"Russia" is almost a dirty word for many of America's Neocon faction and for many Israelis.
Russia's recent decisive assistance to Syria in fighting gangs of terrorists introduced and supported from outside was viewed about as negatively as is possible.
That is war Israel wanted President Assad to lose, and it secretly gave a great deal of assistance to the terrorists.
It was hoping to secure a permanent hold on the Golan, grab even another slice of Syria as a buffer for its illegal residents in Golan, all while seeing one of the region's leaders it most dislikes eliminated.
It worked closely in the effort with Saudi Arabia's murderous Crown Prince, and America oversaw and encouraged all aspects of a dirty war to topple a legitimate government which has remained fairly popular with its people despite years of agonizing conflict and endless dishonest American claims about such matters as chemical weapons.
Assad is seen as a
defender of the rights of Syria's diverse religious groups,
including its many Christians.
For some American politicians, and very notably Hillary Clinton, this has proved a handy tool, Clinton long having been a close-to fanatical supporter of Israeli interests.
The fact has earned her a great deal of campaign funding and other support over the years. Clinton's ego also just could not take the fact that she lost the election to the leader of "the deplorables," as she once called Trump's supporters, so in dark claims of Russian interference, supported by absolutely no proof whatsoever, she protects her ego.
And long before election day, Clinton had a hand in exploiting attitudes about Russia in another way.
She is known to have
paid, at least in part, for the fraudulent
Steele Dossier commissioned from an
ex-British spy. It was used to try to discredit Trump over Russian
It becomes a kind of
vicious circle with new accusations piled on all the time by various
actors each with their own motives, and it is clearly quite
In the past, the two countries have not always been friends, and America, in the time of Nixon, actually worked at playing one off against the other. But that is no more.
The American establishment's intentions for China are too clear. It is virtually reneging on many old promises such as those around Taiwan being an integral part of China, it is treating China as an unwanted competitor, accusing it of every nefarious activity you can think of to impede its economic progress and demanding trade concessions as though China had been an unfair competitor rather than just a new, more successful one.
America is now attacking in every way possible - from questioning motives and methods to trying to generate opposition by participants - China's unprecedented and magnificent global enterprise, the Silk Road Project, a project dwarfing the great canals of the past and destined to bring new prosperity to all participants through trade.
It hardly represents a
positive attitude to oppose and impede it.
Russia is also rushing to
help China greatly increase its supply of natural gas from Siberia's
immense reserves in order to decrease its dependence on coal. The
first great new pipeline is almost finished.
America's new policies have been a driving force in bringing them together, and there is no reason to expect any diminishment of that force.
international behavior requires others to accept what Putin likes to
call America's "exceptionalism,"
its position first and above all other nations, its self-granted
privilege of not having to play by the same rules as everyone else -
its status of "the indispensable nation" as one of America's more
arrogant diplomats put it not very long ago - and it requires
that from two major, proud, and ancient societies which cannot
possibly grant it.
Empires, after all, while benefitting the privileged segments of a society, are a drag on most of its citizens, depriving them of many benefits, including the simple, important benefit of good and caring national government.
America spends more than ten times as much as Russia on its military.
China, compared to not many years ago, has increased its military spending greatly, but for a country with such a huge economy, second only to the United States and likely to overtake it before long, it still spends less than a quarter of what the United States does. And America does not even have the money to pay for its atrociously large military.
It borrows the money, and who do you think pays the stream of interest payments for those massive borrowings? You'd be right if you said all of its ordinary, tax-paying citizens without privileges.
They also are "on the
hook" for the ultimate negative economic consequences of all this
debt and borrowing.
Many historical analyses hold them largely responsible for such terrible conflicts as WWI (a war whose outcome made WWII inevitable also). When such power is at hand, the temptation to use it is constant, and its very presence distorts all attitudes and decisions.
Many of America's own
Founders understood that, but it has been forgotten by the
contemporary American establishment in its relentless pursuit of
empire and influence.
Again, the demands of the
American establishment utterly compromise the interests of the
country's own citizens at large. Indeed, now in security matters,
ordinary Americans have been pretty much reduced to a herd, each
with an identifying tag stapled to his ear.
And, as I've written many
times, you can have a decent country or you can have an empire, but
you cannot have both...