Guided by an aggressive neocon “regime change” strategy, the United States has stumbled into a potential military confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, a dangerous predicament that could become a Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse, as ex-U.S. diplomat William R. Polk explains.
By William R. Polk
In a rather ghastly Nineteenth Century experiment, a biologist by the name of Heinzmann found that if he placed a frog in boiling water, the frog immediately leapt out but that if he placed the frog in tepid water and then gradually heated it, the frog stayed put until he was scalded to death.
Are we like the frog? I see disturbing elements of that process today as we watch events unfold in the Ukraine confrontation. They profoundly frighten me and I believe they should frighten everyone. But they are so gradual that we do not see a specific moment in which we must jump or perish.
So here briefly, let me lay out the process of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and show how the process of that crisis compares with what we face today over the Ukraine.
Three elements stand out in the Cuban Missile Crisis: 1) Relations between the USSR and the U.S. were already “on the edge” before they reached the crisis stage; each of us had huge numbers of weapons of mass destruction aimed at the other. 2) The USSR precipitated the Crisis by advancing into Cuba, a country the U.S. had considered part of its “area of dominance” since the promulgation of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine. 3) Some military and civilian officials and influential private citizens in both countries argued that the other side would “blink” if sufficient pressure was put on it.
Allow me to point out that I had a (very uncomfortable) ringside seat in the Crisis. I was one of three members of the “Crisis Management Committee” that oversaw the unfolding events.
On the Monday of the week of Oct. 22, 1962, I sat with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Under Secretary George Ball, Counselor and Chairman of the Policy Planning Council Walt Rostow and Under Secretary for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson and listened to President John F. Kennedy’s speech to which we all had contributed.
The account Kennedy laid out was literally terrifying to those who understood what a nuclear confrontation meant. Those of us in that room obviously did. We were each “cleared” for everything America then knew. And we each knew what our government was seeking — getting the Russian missiles out of Cuba. Finally, we were poised to do that by force if the Russians did not remove them.
Previous to that day, I had urged that we remove our “Jupiter” missiles from Turkey. This was important, I argued, because they were “offensive” rather than “defensive” weapons. The reason for this distinction was that they were obsolescent, liquid-fired rockets that required a relatively long time to fire; thus, they could only be used for a first strike. Otherwise they would be destroyed before they could be fired.
The Russians rightly regarded them as a threat. Getting them out enabled Chairman Nikita Khrushchev to remove the Russian missiles without suffering an unacceptable degree of humiliation and risking a coup d’Ã©tat.
Then, following the end of the crisis, I wrote the “talking paper” for a review of the crisis, held at the Council on Foreign Relations, with all the involved senior U.S. officials in which we carefully reviewed the “lessons” of the crisis. What I write below in part derives from our consideration in that meeting. That is, it is essentially the consensus of those who were most deeply involved in the crisis.
Shortly thereafter, I participated in a Top Secret Department of Defense war game, designed by Professor Thomas Schelling of MIT in which he set out a scenario of a sequence of events — ironically placed near Ukraine — to show that the USSR would accept an American nuclear attack without responding.
It was, as he said, in our “post mortem” discussion of the game, a vindication of an extension of the theory of deterrence. It was to prove that we need not fear a reaction to a limited nuclear attack. Henry Kissinger had popularized this idea in his 1957 book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. [Kissinger realized his mistake and partially repudiated what he had argued in a later, 1961, book, The Necessity for Choice.]
In the post mortem discussion of the Game, I argued and my military, intelligence and diplomatic colleagues on our war game team agreed with me that the idea of limited nuclear war was nonsense. No government could accept a devastating attack and survive. If it did not retaliate with a “victory-denying response,” it would be overthrown and executed by its own military and security forces.
And the original attacker would, in turn, have to avenge the retaliation or it would face a similar fate. Tit for tat would lead inevitably to “general war.”
Twenty years later, in 1983, a second Department of Defense war game (code named “Proud Prophet”) in which I did not participate and which was heavily weighted to the military confirmed what I had argued in 1962: there was no such thing as a “limited” nuclear war if both sides were armed with nuclear weapons. Limited nuclear actions inevitably ended in all-out war.
So, to be realistic, forget “limited” war and consider general war.
Even the great advocate of thermonuclear weapons, Edward Teller, admitted that their use would “endanger the survival of man[kind].” The Russian nuclear scientist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Andrei Sakharov, laid out a view of the consequences in the Summer 1983 issue of Foreign Affairs as “a calamity of indescribable proportions.”
More detail was assembled by a scientific study group convened by Carl Sagan and reviewed by 100 scientists. A graphic summary of their findings was published in the Winter 1983 issue of Foreign Affairs.
Sagan pointed out that since both major nuclear powers had targeted cities, casualties could reasonably be estimated at between “several hundred million to 1.1 billion people” with an additional 1.1 billion people seriously injured. Those figures related to the 1980s. Today, the cities have grown so the numbers would be far larger.
Massive fires set off by the bombs would carry soot into the atmosphere, causing temperatures to fall to a level that would freeze ground to a depth of about three feet. Planting crops would be impossible and such food as was stored would probably be contaminated so the few survivors would starve.
The hundreds of millions of bodies of the dead could not be buried and would spread contagion. As the soot settled and the sun again became again visible, the destruction of the ozone layer would remove the protection from ultraviolet rays and so promote the mutation of pyrotoxins.
Diseases against which there were no immunities would spread. These would overwhelm not only the human survivors but, in the opinion of the expert panel of 40 distinguished biologists, would cause “species extinction” among both plants and animals. Indeed, there was a distinct possibility that “there might be no human survivors in the Northern Hemisphere … and the possibility of the extinction of Homo sapiens.”
So to summarize:
–It is almost certain that neither the American nor the Russian government could accept even a limited attack without responding.
–There is no reason to believe that a Russian government, faced with defeat in conventional weapons, would be able to avoid using nuclear weapons.
–Whatever attempts are made to limit escalation are likely to fail and in failing lead to all out war.
–And, the predictable consequences of a nuclear war are indeed an unimaginable catastrophe.
These dangers, even if today they seem remote, clearly demand that we do everything we possibly can to avoid the fate of the frog. We can see that the “water” is beginning to heat up. We should not sit and wait for it to boil.
We did not do so in the Cuban Missile Crisis. We and the Russians worked out a solution. So what will we, what should we do now?
The first step is to “appreciate” the situation as it actually is and to see clearly the flow and direction of events. Of course, they are not precisely the same as in the Cuban Missile Crisis. History does not exactly repeat itself, but, as Mark Twain has pithily said, subsequent events sometimes “rhyme” with those that went before.
Consider these key elements:
–Despite the implosion of the Soviet Union and the attempts to cut back on nuclear weapons, Russia and the United States remain parallel nuclear powers with each having the capacity to destroy the other — and probably the whole world. Hundreds if not thousands of our weapons apparently remain on “hair trigger alert.” I assume that theirs are similarly poised.
–Both Russia and the United States are governed by men who are unlikely to be able to accept humiliation and almost certain murder by “super patriots” in their own entourages and would be forced to act even at the cost of massive destruction to their countries.
So pressing the leadership of the opponent in this direction is literally playing with fire. As President Kennedy and the rest of us understood in the 1962 crisis, even if leaders want to avoid conflict, at a certain point in their mutual threats, events replace policy and leaders become bystanders.
–Both the Russian and American people have demonstrated their resilience and determination. Neither is apt to be open to intimidation.
–Both the Russians and the Americans are guided in their foreign policy by what they believe to be “core concerns.” For the Americans, as the Cuban Missile Crisis and many previous events illustrate, this comes down to the assertion of a “zone of exclusion” of outsiders.
America showed in the Cuban Missile Crisis that we would not tolerate, even at almost unimaginable danger, intrusion into our zone. Among the Russians, as their history illustrates, a similar code of action prevails. Having suffered, as fortunately we have not, horrifying costs of invasion throughout history but particularly in the Twentieth Century, the Russians can be expected to block, by any means and up to any cost, intrusions into their zone.
[I have laid out the Russian experience in a previous essay, “Shaping the Deep Memories of Russians and Ukrainians,” which is available on my website, www.williampolk.com]
–We said we understood this fundamental policy objective of the Russians, and officially on behalf of our government, Secretary of State James Baker Jr. agreed not to push our military activities into their sphere. We have, however, violated this agreement and have added country by constituent country of the former Soviet Union and its satellites to our military alliance, NATO.
–We are now at the final stage, just short of Russia itself in the Ukraine, and, as the Russians know, some influential Americans have suggested that we should push forward to “the gates of Moscow.” Those who advocate what the British once called a “Forward Policy,” now see the necessary first steps to be the arming of Ukraine.
–And finally, there is no way in which we or the European Union could arm Ukraine to a level that it could balance Russia. Thus, the weapons are likely both to give the Ukrainians unrealistic notions of what they can do vis-Ã -vis Russia and to be seen by the Russians as “offensive” moves to which they might feel compelled to respond. Consequently, they could lead us all into a war we do not want.
So what to do? In a word: stop. What we are now doing and what we contemplate doing is not in our interest or in the interests of the Ukrainians and is perceived as a threat by the Russians. We cannot deliver on the policy we would encourage the Ukrainians to adopt by arming them without a war. Economic sanctions are a form of that war, but they are unlikely to accomplish what we have been proclaiming.
So, the logic of events could force the Russians and us to the next step and that step also to the next and so on. Our moves in this direction could cause massive death and destruction. We should stop doing what does not work and is not in our interests nor in the interests of either the Ukrainians or the Russians.
But stopping on what terms? Having myself helped to negotiate two complex but successful ceasefires, I have learned two things: first, a ceasefire cannot be obtained unless both parties see it as less bad than the alternative and, second, a ceasefire is merely a necessary precondition to a settlement. So what might a settlement involve?
The elements of a general settlement, I believe, are these:
–Russia will not tolerate Ukraine becoming a hostile member of a rival military pact. We should understand this. Think how we would have reacted had Mexico tried to join the Warsaw Pact. Far-fetched?
Consider that even before the issue of nuclear weapons arose, we tried to overthrow the pro-Russian Cuban government in the Bay of Pigs invasion and tried on several occasions to murder Cuban Head of State Fidel Castro. We failed; so for two generations we have sought to isolate, impoverish and weaken that regime.
We would be foolish to expect that the Russians will not react similarly when challenged by an anti-Russian Ukrainian government. Thus, to press for inclusion of Ukraine into NATO is not only self-defeating; it risks overturning a generation of cautious moves to improve our security and increase our well-being and is pointing us toward at least a cold if not a hot war. We need to adopt a different course.
–We must recognize that the Ukraine is not part of our sphere of influence or dominance. It is neither in the Western Hemisphere nor in the North Atlantic. On the Black Sea, the concept of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an oxymoron. The Black Sea area is part of what the Russians call “the near abroad.”
The policy implications are clear: Just as the Russians realized that Cuba was part of our sphere of dominance and so backed down in the Missile Crisis, they will probably set their response to our actions on the belief that we will similarly back down because of our realization that Ukraine is in their neighborhood and not in ours.
The danger, of course, is that, for domestic political reasons and particularly because of the urging of the neoconservatives and other hawks we may not accept this geostrategic fact. Then, conflict, with all the horror that could mean, would become virtually inevitable.
–But conflict is not inevitable and can fairly easily be avoided if we wish to avoid it. This is because the Russians and Ukrainians share an objective which the United States also emotionally shares. The shared objective is that Ukraine become a secure, prosperous and constructive member of the world community.
Becoming such a member can be accomplished only by the Ukrainians themselves. But as all qualified observers have seen, Ukrainian society and political organization have far to go to reach our joint objective.
This is true regardless of the Russian-American dispute. Its government is corrupt, tyrannical and weak. The best we can do is to remove outside deterrents to the growth of a healthy, secure and free society.
The way to do this is two-fold: first we need to stop our military intrusion into Ukrainian-Russian affairs, so diminishing Russian fears of aggression, and, second, wherever possible and in whatever ways are acceptable to both parties to assist the growth of the Ukrainian economy and, indirectly, the stability and sanity of the Ukrainian governing system. A first step in this direction could be for Ukraine to join the European Union.
This, in general terms, should be and for our own sakes must be, our strategy.
William R. Polk is a veteran foreign policy consultant, author and professor who taught Middle Eastern studies at Harvard. President John F. Kennedy appointed Polk to the State Department’s Policy Planning Council where he served during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His books include: Violent Politics: Insurgency and Terrorism; Understanding Iraq; Understanding Iran; Personal History: Living in Interesting Times; Distant Thunder: Reflections on the Dangers of Our Times; and Humpty Dumpty: The Fate of Regime Change.
Just to put things into perspective, the Havana-Washington distance is 1139 miles according to the image attached. The distance from Hlukhiv in Ukraine to Moscow is 370 miles. Also, the missiles fly significantly faster now then they did in 1962. This is why Eastern Ukraine is a vital interest of the US and NATO.
Thoughts on this: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/discussions/news-and-events/conference-call-with-john-mearsheimer-on-the-ukraine-crisis ?
The Deputy Speaker of Ukraineâ€™s parliament, Andriy Parubiy, who had been the co-founder of the Nazi-inspired Social Nationalist Party of Ukraine, met in Washington on Wednesday, February 25th, with members of the U.S. House and Senate who support his request that the U.S. Government donate weapons to his virtually bankrupt Government. Parubiy also visited with the Pentagon. Weapons are needed by his Government because his Government is engaged in a civil war against the residents in the area of Ukraine that had voted 90% for the former Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, whom Parubiy himself (when he was called â€œthe Mayor of Maidanâ€) led to overthrow in a violent February 2014 coup.
Top Ukrainian Nazi Visits U.S. Congress, Pentagon, Seeks Weapons for Ukraine
By Eric Zuesse
According to a recent report by Gabriel Gatehouse of the BBC, witness testimony and photographic evidence both conflict with Parubiyâ€™s account of how the overthrow a year ago occurred. The United States Government strongly supported Yanukovychâ€™s overthrow, and denies that it was a coup. The Obama Administration calls it an expression of Ukrainian democracy, and says that the replacement Government was â€œduly electedâ€ (though by whom was left unsaid by Mr. Obama), and that when elections for a new Ukrainian President were held in northwest Ukraine on 25 May 2014, in which no one in the rebelling region participated, the residents in the rebelling region were terrorists if they refused to accept the electionâ€™s winner as being their President. The residents still refused to accept the winner of that election as being their leader. The Government, on 2 May 2014, massacred an estimated 100+ peaceful demonstrators against the Government, in Odessa, and sent troops into the southeast to take over their local governments, and so the civil war started. Mr. Parubiy was a member of the small team that planned the Odessa massacre.
The residents in the area of Ukraine that is being bombed and even firebombed by Parubiyâ€™s Government had opposed the overthrow, because they had voted 90% for the person who was being overthrown; they did not feel that an imposed new leader would be acceptable to them. The continued bombing of them by the replacement Government has thus-far failed to persuade the residents there to support Parubiyâ€™s Government; and, so, those residents have declared their region to be no longer a part of Ukraine. Ukraineâ€™s President, Petro Poroshenko, disagrees; he says that they have no right to do that and that they are therefore â€˜terroristsâ€™ for seceding from Ukraine. The United States Government supports that position, and Congress voted more than 98% for it. However, U.S. President Barack Obama, whose Administration ran that coup and actually selected the leader of the interim government to replace Yanukovych, Ukraineâ€™s current Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, hasnâ€™t yet decided whether to send Ukraine more weapons than he has already sent.
I can never relate to U.S. citizens inability to comprehend that something that has existed for one thousand years can just be scotched according to their short term reasoning. Russia is very well aware that this type of thinking dominates U.S. policy as it also recognizes the completely amoral greed of U.S. corporations who have no interest in the citizens of the Ukraine or it’s neighbours. Ultimately the whole situation will end in failure for the US/EU. The anti Russian rhetoric will continue but quietly behind the scenes the U.S./EU will stop the sanctions as they realize this is a situation they cannot win. Germany has so reduced military spending that at a recent
Good article. Performs the useful service of de-escalating. I think greater focus should be put on Wall Street/City-of-London vs. BRICS conflict, however, as this is probably what sparked the Ukraine civil war. The Wall Street/City-of-London Empire (successor to the old British Empire) has a failing financial structure, and has gone bankrupt since 2008 actually. It seeks to colonize Ukraine, like it has colonized Europe via the Euro, in order to suck it dry to maintain the fiction of solvency for its’ “too-big-to-fail” banking sector. BRICS, OTOH, functions like an FDR/JFK “New Deal/Peace Corps” entity, offering genuine development opportunities to the Ukraine’s agriculture and industrial sectors, and is frankly the new World Power, eclipsing the old, wheezing “Western Empire” of the Street & the City. The smart, future-oriented Ukrainians look East. Those Ukrainians stuck in the old “Stephan Banderas” past look West, to their own, self-inflicted, undoing. The Western Empire can either do its’ own FDR “New Deal” bankruptcy re-organization (Thus de-throning the Financier Emperor), or try to destroy the up-coming BRICS alignment (Thus unleashing total nuclear war, but, PERHAPS, keeping the Emperor’s Throne). THIS is the REAL conflict here: How to persuade the Western Emperor to stand down from his Throne, and pull up his Flag, before he gets us all killed?
The issue is NOT whether the Ukraine should join NATO or even the EU, the real issue is whether it has the right as an independent nation state to determine its own future. I find this blather about the Ukraine being in Russia’s “sphere of influence” to be self serving hogwash- the whole idea of “sphere of influence” went out with the Cold War- would you justify America’s attitude to Castro’s Cuba based on the argument that the latter is “within our sphere of influence”???
“whether it has the right as an independent nation state to determine its own future”
Certainly Ukraine has had the right to do so for the past 20 years and still does. How do you determine what people want? There are constitutional procedures to determine that. If a violent group takes over the government and threatens to kill the democratically elected president, does this represent the will of the people? Well, it certainly did not represent the East, hence a civil war.
Imagine now that Cuba and Nicaragua as “independent nations who want to determine their own future” decide to host Russian nuclear missiles because it’s good for business. I leave the rest to your imagination. “Spheres of influence” is a harsh reality rather than a Cold War notion.
One complaint with the article: The story about the frogs is apocryphal.
The story about the frogs is apocryphal.
Maybe, maybe not. Although I knew modern tests show that frogs were smart enough to jump out of rapidly heating water, this is such a common anecdote/cautionary tale that I tend to overlook the usage.
But your remark caused me to wonder how the dickens such a notion ever arose in the first place, so I googled it. Lo and behold, there is a Boiling Frog Wiki!
In “On the Variation of Reflex Excitability in the Frog induced by changes of Temperature” (1882) William Thompson Sedgwick writes: “in one experiment the temperature was raised at a rate of 0.002Â°C per second, and the frog was found dead at the end of 2Â½ hours without having moved.”
In 1888 Sedgwick explained the apparent contradiction between the results of these experiments as a consequence of different heating rates used in the experiments: “The truth appears to be that if the heating be sufficiently gradual, no reflex movements will be produced even in the normal frog; if it be more rapid, yet take place at such a rate as to be fairly called ‘gradual’, it will not secure the repose of the normal frog under any circumstances”.
It appears nobody has reported on any modern experiments where the heating of the water is very, very slow. Maybe this could be a science project for the US Army School of the Americas – the place where the US used to teach students from other nations the finer points of torture.
Anyhow, the story – be it real or not for frogs – seems to fit Homo sapiens pretty well in another case – climate change. Since up till now the changes have been at glacial speed, no living person (excepting the easily ignored old geezers) can see what’s happening. What youngsters have lived with from diapers onwards is “real”. When the aforesaid geezers laugh at their crying about horrible Indiana winters where there is a 6 inch snow fall and temperatures reaching -5 with a stronger windchill, they just don’t believe it. If they live long enough to laugh at THEIR grand-kids whining about +20 F weather on a couple of days in February and a brief 2 inch snow, then maybe they’ll understand.
Personally, I sort of expect things to fall apart before then.
I like the way you turned the frog experiment into our noticing climate change…good one!
Great article and also great comments. However, I would like to comment that USA escalated wars by its brutal military actions in sovereign nations that were NOT willing to submit to Washington’s dominance. It played the BULLY police force all around the globe or like former US president George W. Bush :either you’re with us or you’re against us.
With a weak president in the White House Neocons in Congress are taking over and we are not only talking about McCain, Russian basher Brzeszinsky or F…the EU Nuland and her husband Kagan who are re-inventing the theory of Halford MacKinder’s (1861-1947) theory that the world can only be dominated if you control Russia/China. It shows the stupidity of Washington’s Neocons and ignorance believing that USA can still control a China, Russia or India as they have become economic and military powers.
President Truman in 1941 said: If we see Germany is winning WW II, we should help the Soviet Union and if Russia wins we help Germany. This also explains the Normandy landing June 6, 1941 after the Soviet Army defeated Nazi 6th Army in Stalingrad and attacked Berlin, April 16, 1945 that is 2 months before Normandy.
It is obvious that Washington’s move to land in Normandy was NOT to free Europe from the Nazi’s but more to STOP Soviet troops to move further West. For more details I suggest you read the German Magazine ‘COMPACT’ #4 or http://www.spezial.compact-online.de
President Truman in 1941 said: If we see Germany is winning WW II, we should help the Soviet Union and if Russia wins we help Germany. This also explains the Normandy landing June 6, 1941 after the Soviet Army defeated Nazi 6th Army in Stalingrad and attacked Berlin, April 16, 1945 that is 2 months before Normandy.
WAY too many typos here. Truman wasn’t president in 1941, but was instead a hick senator from a backward Southern state. The quote also shows he was quite an ignoramus at the time.
Normandy was invaded 1944, and the Russians attacked Berlin almost a year later.
As for the timing of the Normandy invasion, the Americans wanted to do it in 1942. That was simply suicide, and the Brits managed to get the operation moved to North Africa. Sicily and Italy made a 1943 invasion of France just about impossible.
It’s true Churchill dragged his feet in 1944, probably because he wanted the German-Russian bloodletting to continue. But don’t forget that the British were still a major if junior partner late into the war. Three of the five beaches at Normandy were British.
Finally, I found nothing at all to read at your link. So far as I could see, they were peddling German-language reading materials.
Unfortunately, Russia finds itself in the same position as a storekeeper facing an armed psychopath on meths determined to rob the store.
The insights offered into the Cuban Missile crisis are very applicable to the current Ukraine conflict. Stephen Cohen also mentioned something regarding the reciprocity of sovereignty between the US and Russia (eg Monroe Doctrine & Berlin wall v NATO red line), has not been what one could call equal, whether the US is even striving for this at all is in question. As it seems the EU is more in charge (as it should be), with negotiations, this puts US FP in the backseat no matter how loud the din of war get’s among the NeoCons and Vultures.
I too disagree with the notion that Ukraine joining the EU is best, best for who? The negotiations in Yalta, the DCFTA, the current IMF land grabs, Ukraine’s currency devaluation not to mention the recent Wall St. Tech Rally (and others), proves there are many signs of violation especially in regards to economic sovereignty. There were allegations by Oleg Tsarov regarding Pyatt’s affiliation with TechCamp (which is everywhere, not to mention teamed up with MS), not to mention the Nuland call. These signs of intervention not just by the US, but also the EU are being overlooked. This is hardly what I would call democracy at work.
Ukraine’s conflict does not just contain a military front, it also contains an economic one, in fact some assume it is this economic front that is the driver behind the conflict. The front I speak of is BRICS v IMF/Worldbank/Wall St./London’s Gold exchange, it is hard for me to see Ukraine being used by one or the other. Ukraine is being used as a barricade when it could be a bridge. It seems obvious that it has lost this golden opportunity, but joining the EU would only seal that fate. It also seems that Hungary has already stepped to that plate. To avoid this inevitable economic conflict is unwise as it could erupt in numerous places in the Baltic region and globally, not just Ukraine.
Amazing how many have the same reply as myself:
The way to do this is two-fold:
. . . .
A first step in this direction could be for Ukraine to join the European Union.
I would say: This of course is a natural being proffered by an American. Especially a former American Diplomat.
In reality the EU must be reconstitutes as an Association of countries (i. e. BRIC) not with a Euro but as it was initially with the ECU (European Currency Unit) a computer based currency which I used very efficiently in international business for about 15-years (1979 -) not as it is now as a Federalist system under dictate by unelected minions in Brussels. Taking the people’s own currency they have used in many case for centuries you take away the people’s country. Just talk to the people in the old initial countries in the EU countries like (Holland, Belgium, France, Germany and so on and they will tell you the Euro means absolutely NOTHING to them, its just a piece of paper or a piece of metal.
The battle is being led by tunnel-vision warhawks around President Obama such as NSC Adviser Susan Rice. They seem incapable of grasping connections between events, and are, thus, by definition, not intelligent people. It is being led by the US military industrial complex, prominently by Lockheed Martin, main contractor of the disastrous F-35. It is being led by a very rich, power-addicted Oligarchy that somehow thinks they own the world. In fact, as recent events testify, they are losing the world they thought they controlled by their stupidity. Some call it the law of unintended consequences.
Putin and Iran Do a â€˜Game Changerâ€™
By F. William Engdahl
The U.S. aristocracy intend to dominate the aristocracy in every other nation, and Russia is the only militarily powerful nation that is opposed to being controlled by this global Empire. Consequently, President Obama, who is an agent for Americaâ€™s aristocracy, wants to cripple if not destroy Russia. And this is why, in his National Security Strategy 2015, 17 of the 18 times he uses the term â€˜aggressionâ€™ are applying it against Russia. Russiaâ€™s President Putin would have to be an idiot not to recognize that todayâ€™s United States (its aristocracy, not the American public, who are quite different) is extremely hostile.
Abe, agree with you 100%. However I would suggest that Americans are more indifferent than different. And that indifference is reflected in the quality and morality of our leadership.
With all due respect to Mr. Polk, “our moves” in Ukraine have already caused massive death and destruction in Donetsk and Luhansk.
“Our moves” have been to politically and militarily support the ethnic cleansing of eastern Ukraine in order to secure an ostensibly “pro-EU” voting majority.
The people of Crimea successfully thwarted “our moves”, and the people of the Donbas region have sacrificed much to resist “our moves”.
Thank you, Mr. Draitser. Your comments here and on TV are always salient and informative. Keep them coming. We need more like you who have the overview.
According to German intelligence, at least 400 US mercenaries from Academi aka Blackwater, the infamous military/security contractor responsible for documented war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere, have been operating inside Ukraine from the very beginning of the conflict. Exactly what actions and/or crimes they might be responsible for is still unknown. However, their very presence inside Ukraine should raise eyebrows around the world, much of which has been inundated with the meme of â€œRussian aggression.â€ So, if Russian and other volunteers arenâ€™t the only â€œforeignersâ€ inside Ukraine, why is it that Russia is the only party being held up as a â€œforeign armed formationâ€?
It should also be pointed out that this German intelligence report is only one snippet of information that was leaked to the German press. Typically, a leak indicates a far larger body of information. Who knows how many other US-NATO mercenary â€œformationsâ€ have been, and continue to be, involved in Ukraine?
One should also remember that there have been numerous pieces of video (14:40 mark) and photographic evidence, not to mention written testimony, demonstrating that Academi/Blackwater (and possibly other mercenary groups) has been active in Ukraine. In late 2014, Russiaâ€™s ITAR-TASS reported that $3.5 million will be used to train an â€œexperimental battalionâ€ of 550 Ukrainian soldiers in â€œmarksmanship, operations by assault groups in urban conditions, close combat and combat and logistics support.â€
Taken in total, the case for US-NATO mercenary involvement in Ukraine is quite strong. But this somehow never makes it into the mainstream narrative about Ukraine in the West. Moreover, the media never seems to question the fact that the line between official US military, and unofficial mercenary forces, exists for a simple reason: Washington can disavow any knowledge of unofficial forces operating inside Ukraine.
And this is precisely the point. The US is able to simultaneously say it is â€œconsideringâ€ arming Ukrainian forces, while already having other forces on the ground. With one hand the US holds the knife to the throat, and with the other it holds the gun to the temple. So much for Minsk and diplomacy.
While the politicians dance their danse macabre and talk of peace, withdrawal of heavy weapons, and demilitarizing the conflict, the US and its associated military and quasi-military appendages works diligently to escalate an obviously failed proxy war. In so doing, Washington undermines both the interests of its nominal European partners, and any prospects for peace. But of course, thatâ€™s precisely the point, isnâ€™t it? The US is perfectly happy to pay its geopolitical tab in the currency of Ukrainian blood, while constantly pointing the finger at Moscow.
But itâ€™s not Washingtonâ€™s fault, is it? The Empire is doing what empires do. It is the fault of all those in the media, both mainstream and alternative, who refuse to examine the evidence, who choose to reduce everything into simplistic black and white terms â€“ they are the ones who must be held accountable. For the blood of innocents in Donetsk and Lugansk stains all. And those stains will never be washed away.
Minsk II: Derailed Before the Ink Was Dry
By Eric Draitser
The Russian public will not accept returning to the exploitation of Yeltsin error which Western capitalists bear responsibility for and seem oblivious to it’s effect.
Confronted with the bleak future of an economy which exceeded the American Great Depression by multiples many would rather risk nuclear war.
Brinkmanship only works if the other side blinks.
I don’t think they’ll blink.
Mr Polk made sense until his last two paragraphs. It is not clear that it is in Ukraines best interest to join the EU. Yanokovich realizing that is what precipitated this mess in the first place. He concluded that the deal offered by the EU and the IMF was not very good and Russia offered a much better deal. When he decided to go with Russia we toppled his government.
It is also not clear, as there has been no photographic evidence given, that Russian troops are in the Ukraine (except for Crimea where they have been for decades).
The civil war has polarized the Ukrainian people even more than they were before this year. At this point I suspect the only stable solution is for Ukraine to be split into two countries, east and west. Each can follow its natural ethnic affinity and ally with the Russia and the EU respectively.
Here is an article from today’s New York Times headlined, “Ukraine Rebels Celebrate Their Taking of Strategic Town”:
Obviously, the citizens of Crimea, faced with a Russian hating Neo-Nazi putsch in Kiev orchestrated by Victoria Nuland and the U.S. State Department, overwhelmingly voted to be annexed into Russia. So far so good (even though Poroshenko is determined to fight this decision).
And according to the New York Times article above, especially seeing the people of the area cheering the “rebels” in their victory at Debaltseve, there are key areas in Eastern Ukraine where the vast majority of the citizens would prefer to be within the government of Russia and not that of Ukraine, especially considering that most speak Russian (which is abhorred by those in Western Ukraine) and many of them actually travel back and forth from Ukraine to Russia for work and to visit family and friends.
It seems that a cooling off period must be recognized to allow a “vote” along obvious parameters geographically so Eastern Ukraine can become a part of Russia along with Crimea, if they so choose. This vote would have to be carefully monitored by the international community.
Perhaps some type of economic arrangements could be made for the Eastern regions that possess natural resources of coal, gas and oil that Joe Biden’s son and his corporation are currently salivating over. Business deals are made every day all over the world and there is no reason that the government in Kiev cannot enter into some type of “friendly” relationship with the Eastern areas that is fair and just to all concerned. Considering that Monsanto wants to take over the rich farmlands of Ukraine to plant GMO crops (which are banned in many areas of Europe. These types of arrangements need to be decided by the citizens, not the government.
This sure beats an all out nuclear conflagration with the resultant “nuclear winter” that would be the end to all life on Earth (as we know it). Not much to leave to all the “future generations” yet unborn whose voices are now silent, (Jonathan Schell pointed all this out in detail in his 1982 book, “The Fate of the Earth”.)
I suggested a few days ago at Truthdig that the world needs for top journalists like Robert Parry, Chris Hedges, Robert Scheer (there are probably ten others) plus top academics and seasoned political professionals, like the author of this article, William R. Polk, to come together ASAP at the D.C Press Club for a sit down panel which would address all this and who would be available to take questions from the press. Of course this would be on CSPAN and the “alternative press” would be sure to send the tapes out for the world to see).
I do not see any Congressional committees, now under control of the Republican hawks, who would welcome a group like this to be questioned on Capitol Hill. On the contrary, voices like Mr. Polk’s are now only read by a minority of readers.
We must do all that is possible to try to bring this runaway train to a grinding halt. Writing prescient articles is all fine and good, but there comes a time when we must have leadership and an “action plan” must be put into effect. Sometimes we must break away from the day to day hand-wringing and stand up and be heard and counted. That time has now come.
Charlene your ideas are great. We need people like you. You come to the table with solutions that make sense.
So no Russian or European academics or journalists on this panel then?
I agree with Polk until he mumbles the final two sentences: “A first step in this direction could be for Ukraine to join the European Union”, etc. The European Union is the same as NATO.
NOT “THE SAME”….
To Gregory Kruse:
The EU and NATO are not “the same”. Through decades of manipulation the US has for
many complex reasons made NATO into the US’s military. Mr. Polk must be aware of the
measures of “persuasion” which I shall crudely call “bribes” to get EU nations to follow US
policies and goals. (The “bribes” vary from trade decisions, loans, financial actions to military
actions etc. For a more careful discussion see Joyce and Gabriel Kolko’s THE LIMITS OF
BELLIGERENTS AND ASSUMPTIONS
1. All belligerents assume beyond any possible question their own superiority both in values,
force, power etc.
2. Belligerents also assume—and must assume— that they will prevail in any war due to
3. In the nuclear case, millions would die, the millions of opponents being, by definition,
of less value (if of any value at all) than our own. (Russia alone lost 20 million men in
fighting Hitler in WWII, many times the losses of Western powers. Not included are other losses such as infrastructure etc. And yet, without Russia’s support, the “victory” of
the West might have been in considerable doubt.
4.All belligerents must assume that a victory for their side will be quick, painless. (For example,the very idea that all of New York City and its inhabitants might be leveled to the ground is inconceivable for the US and its Western allies. Substitute any other
US City or location.
5. Whatever problems currently encountered by Russia today (many caused by the US in the
false belief that it will lead to US victory) would have the reverse result. Nothing unites
any belligerent as solidly as the national fervor this would engender. Putin would
gain mightily. In the US whoever is President and leaders would gain as well by an attack
by Russia.( 9/11/2001 is an example of this and is a prima facie example of unintended consequences not comprehended by the attackers).
The Ukraine’s addition to EU and NATO seems most unlikely. Mr. Polk’s analyses elsewhere in
his piece seem to understand this from both sides. Whether or not the US withdraws from
the Ukraine as a key point of its interest (what commodities, raw materials etc. are in play
and to what ends is not made clear ab ove).
—-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA
Charles, may I suggest you do some homework on what happened in Georgia. I’d also like to point out that the U.S. (and by extension NATO) has been a far more aggressive and destructive power than Russia in the international arena. Think Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and now Ukraine — of late, it seems anywhere the West gets involved in “spreading democracy” or “humanitarian efforts” they leave a horrifying trail of chaos and suffering.
I’m all too well of what the U.S. empire has done, Martyn. Perhaps we should start in 1915 in Haiti, one of the most egregious of the U.S. actions.
But then we’d have to remember the history of Imperial Russia and the U.S.S.R. Both states were brutal occupiers. Ukraine well remembers the “Famine” .
When one studies Great Powers, one quickly learns that they are all violent, amoral, and murderous. At best we civilians get to enjoy some years of peace in between the carnage.
None of the provocations of the United States, none of its machinations, none of its lawlessness and violence justifies similar behavior by its rivals. As I have pointed out in another thread, at the time it looked like the U.S. “won” the Cuban Missile Crisis. In retrospective, it looks like one of the worst defeats the U.S. inflicted on itself. In the future, I suspect that Russian intervention in Ukraine will be seen to have been a serious error as well. But that, only history can judge.
Martyn’s examples of U.S./NATO aggression are drawn from somewhat more recent history than “of Imperial Russia and the U.S.S.R” (& by the way Martyn, Serbia/Kosovo belongs on that list).
Charles, you said: None of the provocations of the United States, none of its machinations, none of its lawlessness and violence justifies similar behavior by its rivals.
So these actions as stated above are to be allowed to continue without any checks, do you realise what you have said, this means you condone open slather by the US to do what ever it likes to whomever it likes without reprisals.
So what is to deter the US from continuing ad-infinitem, which is what it is and has been doing for at least 70 years.
The US and UK/NATO should butt out of the ‘backyard’ of Russia, and Russia has a perfect right to demand that action, the same way the US wanted the USSR out of Cuba.
The conflict in Ukraine has nothing to do with US/NATO, the locals are sorting out their own troubles, and should be left to do so.
You know, shortchanged, if Russia had been able to promote economic development in Ukraine, a coup would have been impossible. Russia wasn’t all that popular with the majority of Ukrainians. The country was pretty much a failed state when it was Russia’s closest partner. Yanukovych may not have been more corrupt than Poroshenko, but he was corrupt.
You say, “Russia has a perfect right to demand that action [US to not engage in Ukraine], the same way the US wanted the USSR out of Cuba.”
Actually, international law does not allow Russia to do that, just as the US had no legal right to intervene in Cuba. When vital security interests are threatened, Great Powers do what they wish and construct rationalizations later.
Ukraine is a more complicated situation than Cuba. US meddling may have broken the proper constitutional succession, but by seizing Crimea, Russia has prevented any repair. Now, the US certainly has done things to undermine international law and discourage lawful response. It has conducted a series of “constitutional coups,” actions to overthrow governments in cosmetically acceptable ways. In most cases, those governments were of terribly weak nations or were unpopular. In Venezuela, attempts at a constitutional coup failed.
That’s the model that Russia should be using. When countries and economies are healthy, when there’s a strong free press, when civil society is engaged, coups become much, much more difficult.
The Crimean naval base is considered a vital strategic asset by Russia. The nature of the Kiev coup – smashing a brokered political deal, led by anti-Russian nationalists, and then “legitimised” by NATO countries which had already steadily encroached into former Warsaw Pact territories – was highly provacative. Russia’s move was predictable – as NATO analysts foresaw a decade ago – and something akin to a “constitutional coup”.
As for U.S. led “constitutional coups”… the color revolutions perhaps, or Australia in 1975 and 2010.
Not so in Venezuela 2002, nothing constitutional there. Haiti and Honduras. Iran, Guatamala, South Vietnam, Brazil, Indonesia, Chile in decades past. Iraq and Libya were hard power regime change operations, with Syria in the wings. None of the above featured a distinct vital strategic asset in the way Crimea does for Russia.
The “international law” became irrelevant after high-level officials from the US and EU openly encouraged anti-governmental violent rioters in Kiev. The gloves were off and Russia had to react. As far as Crimea is concerned, there were essentially no options left. Any delay with the referendum and subsequent annexation would result in a bloodbath worse than that in Donbass since the conflict would certainly involve heavy weaponry already present in the region.
(The Right Sector declared shortly after the coup that they’d be sending “friendship trains” to Crimea and they already started attacking buses from Crimea).
This situation is very different from Cuba since Cuba did not host millions and millions of ethnic Americans. Russia cannot just stand by and complain to the “civilised world” that Ukranian neo-Nazis commit genocide. Yet, the Russian response has been very restrained as no army units have taken part in the conflict. Most of the support for the rebels is in the form of volunteers, retired military advisors and flexible border crossing (when no heavy weaponry is involved).
I agree with you Charles that Ukraine is a complicated case, but a few facts should be restated.
First: Russia did not ‘annex’ Crimea, it has been Russian for the past 300 years, and by international agreement is allowed 25,000 troops to be stationed there.
The people of the Crimea, majority of Russian stock, voted to be part of Russia and I think the outside world should allow them to choose their own destiny.
Ukraine was a part of Russia until it was ‘given away’by a former USSR President, purportedly in a drunken rage. In fact the capital of the Ukraine, Kiev, was the capital of the Russian Empire, which in turn was mixed up with Lithuania, Poland and the grand duchy of Moscow, for further reading I suggest https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Kiev
makes a fascinating read.
Finally: What is the USA doing there anyway ? apart from raping and pillaging another country to shore up the decline of the USA. Now we have the USA and UK driving tanks and other vehicles 300 metres from the Russian border, a deliberate provocation for which Putin has every reason and right to retaliate. What kind of utter stupdity is going on here, do those psychopaths in Washington and London think this a game and they are safe because they live 5000 miles away and cannot be touched.
I am an old man whom has great grandchildren and I fear for their future.
Since the late 1960s, the US and NATO have used terrorist violence to advance their political agenda throughout Europe, generating chaos from the English channel to the Caucasus.
The February 2014 coup in Kiev, the brutal ethnic cleansing campaign in Eastern Ukraine, and the downing of MH-17 are the most recent cases in point.
And it will get worse until the vile creatures who have perpetrated these crimes are dragged out of their administrative spider holes, tried, convicted and incarcerated.
Not bloody likely.
This was a great article…up until the penultimate sentence. Joining the EU would be a bad idea, unless its terms of joining are worked out in a special way. Per the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon, all new EU members are supposed to align their security and military institutions with NATO. How in the world would this not take us back to the same problem? Also, Ukraine needs to be allowed to have beneficial economic relations with Europe and Russia, not be forced to have relations with Europe at the expense of significant trade and other economic exchanges with Russia.
As they say Natylie, “my sentiments exactly.”
In the post mortem discussion of the Game, I argued â€“ and my military, intelligence and diplomatic colleagues on our war game team agreed with me â€“ that the idea of limited nuclear war was nonsense. No government could accept a devastating attack and survive. If it did not retaliate with a â€œvictory-denying response,â€ it would be overthrown and executed by its own military and security forces.
And the original attacker would, in turn, have to avenge the retaliation or it would face a similar fate. Tit for tat would lead inevitably to â€œgeneral war.â€
I agree that no nuclear power “could accept a devastating attack” without retaliating in kind, but what if the attack wasn’t “devastating”?
What the US and its NATO sidekicks are doing in Ukraine looks crazy, but unless all of them are truly nuts, I expect they plan something short of total war. Unless the whole bunch of them are suicidal, they’re surely aware they’d be unlikely to survive a large nuclear war themselves.
Back in 1987 weapons designer Theodore Taylor was allowed to write a vaguely-worded article for Scientific American.
A reader gets the impression he was doing a lot of hinting at subjects he wasn’t allowed to describe explicitly. That article was about 3rd Generation nuclear weapons. Since then enough years have passed that a google search can turn up references to 4th Generation nukes.
What are the capabilities of such new weaponry? Frankly, they’re scary.
Naturally this is pure speculation, but what if the Empire believes it has some world-beater new stuff? What if it’s straining at the leash to get a chance to display it to intimidate all the world’s evildoers?
Certainly new strategies have been found. Smashing Iraq was dreadfully expensive, but doing the same to Ukraine, Syria, and Libya has been a demonstration of economy. Advancing “Democracy” has become a cutting-edge technique which doesn’t alarm the folks back home. And it costs those taxpayers very little out-of-pocket.
Who knows what the “strategists” are thinking? It could be as simple as wanting to provoke somebody into using a nuke – and thus breaking the prohibition since WW2 once and for all. Some of the smallest nukes would have tantalizing uses as weapons.
Since there are so many nations (and probably corporations) with nuclear weapons, discovering who was responsible for a specific event might not be all that easy. There are lots of “tit for tat” possibilities which don’t involve launching the big ones.
I’ll agree that the folks who are “poking the Bear” are a cold-blooded bunch, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that they don’t have some sort of overall plan. One which THEY believe could work.
I generally agree with Polk’s prescription, that we should de-escalate militarily and start trying to build up Ukraine economically.
I do think that we have to be aware of another risk, and that is that Russia, by its proximity to Warsaw and Berlin, is inherently a destabilizing factor. If Russia were to actually take over Ukraine–or even if it were to go to the Dnieper– it would precipitate European re-armament. So, it’s in Russia’s best interest not to station troops inside Ukraine.
I also want to point something out. Cuba never was a U.S. vital national interest (though keeping missiles out so that decision-makers would have enough time to react appropriately to possible threats was). Neither is Ukraine per se a vital national interest for Russia (though keeping a sufficient land buffer against an aggressive American empire is). Big Powers should leave other nations alone, allowing them to develop as they will, and make their own mistakes. Becoming a real democracy requires making mistakes. This goes no less for the US in Venezuela and Ukraine than it does for Russia in Georgia and Ukraine.
Great Powers do no favors to countries that they want to help by doing their fighting for them. It’s when a people struggles on its own that they come together and build the skills for nationhood. I think it’s pretty obvious that Russia has sent troops into Ukraine. NATO may have done as well. If so, they’re just making it less likely that Ukraine will become peaceful and prosperous in our lifetimes.
I would think the Crimea is in fact of a vital national interest to Russia. I would also think Russia is a vital national interest to the Ukraine. I wonder if the Ukraine is of any real interest to the US/UK, other than a potential looting target by London (with Ukraine’s own Oligarchs), and a Western toy with which to inconvenience Russia for reasons unclear and unstated.
“I think itâ€™s pretty obvious that Russia has sent troops into Ukraine.”
It may be obvious to you but the OSCE who are continually monitoring the border have yet to find any evidence of your assertion.
I see self-proclaimed Russians, especially Cossacks, in videos from the pro-rebel side, sites like Cassad and Fortruss. They say that they are fighting for patriotic reasons.
I think it’s pretty obvious that they have been promised recognition by Russia in exchange for their efforts.
I hear Zacharchencko saying that at Debaltsevo he captured in repairable condition, one-fourth of the tanks that Ukraine had at the start of the conflict.
I think, from viewing hours of footage of combat and from Debaltsevo itself, that most of what they captured was not repairable. Furthermore, the sheer number of claimed captured tanks conflicts with other reports I have seen as to the equipment of the units at Debaltsevo.
So I think it’s obvious that Zacharchenko is inflating the numbers to be able to claim that the rebels re-armed themselves from captured materiel.
You are free to disagree.
Indeed! How dare those Russians put their country so close to our military bases! /s*
*Because some people really think that way.
we could just say that becoming a democracy is a mistake; our founders went all out to avoid a democracy; the USA has failed at all attempts to establish such; so. what’s the point? where exactly is a democracy working?
The best thing we could do is to make it clear to the PNAC traitors that we will hold them responsible for any effects of their deceptive and counterproductive sabre rattling in the name of the American people.
Charles, have you heard of something all Ukrainians call the Third Force? These are the NATO mercenaires killing civilians on both sides in Ukraine, just as they did in Iraq, Libya and Syria. Both Ukrainian Nazi divisions and these mercanaires are paid by the Western countries, which are “not involved in the fighting”. Naturally, the Western media will only see the Russians fighting in Ukraine.
The Russian people and Eastern Ukrainians of Russian ancestry share religious and language ties that the US does not share with Cuba. Cuba is closer to Spain and Lain American linguistically, culturally , and religiously. Not a good comparison. The US gov’t is way is out of bounds trying to tale Ukraine and then destabilize Russia. Disaster will come quickly and violently if Obama’ lunatics in the State Dept. and Pentagon are not called off.