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Why Can’t We ‘Just March Out’ Of Afghanistan?

By Ron Paul | April 19, 2021

Last week President Biden announced a “full” US withdrawal from Afghanistan – the longest war in US history – by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States. While this announcement is to be welcomed, the delayed US withdrawal may result in Americans and Afghans dying needlessly for good PR optics back home. We all remember how many Americans died after President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” stunt in Iraq.

The war has been a disaster from day one. So why wait to end it?

The previous Trump Administration had negotiated an agreement for the US to be out of Afghanistan by the first of May, but in its obsession with tossing out anything associated with Trump, President Biden will continue to keep US troops in harm’s way in this pointless war.

The Taliban have kept their end of the “Doha Agreement” signed under then-President Trump: no Americans have been killed in Afghanistan for more than a year. However, the US side under President Biden will formally violate the Agreement by keeping US troops in-country after May 1st. The Taliban has announced that it will hold the US “liable” for remaining in-country after the agreed-upon departure date. That means more Americans may be killed.

The outcome of the war will not be altered in the slightest by keeping US troops in Afghanistan four additional months. The withdrawal is already announced and no one paying attention expects the corrupt US-backed Kabul government to survive. It is another Saigon moment, proving that the intellectually bankrupt US foreign policy and military established has learned absolutely nothing from history. So if another American is killed, who is going to explain to the grieving family why their loved one had to remain in harm’s way for a good 9/11 photo-op?

A recent article in the Military Times lays out the massive disaster of the US two-decade war on Afghanistan: more than two trillion dollars spent – much of it going to fund crooked practices in Afghanistan and here at home. And even worse, the Cost of War Project has estimated that a quarter of a million people have been killed in the war.

We do applaud President Biden’s decision to ignore the demands of all the neocons who have flocked to support his Administration, but as is most often the case, when it comes to Washington you have to really read the fine print when something sounds too good to be true. In this case, the fine print is that the US will not actually be leaving Afghanistan at all. As a recent article in The Grayzone points out, the Afghan war will continue with US special forces, CIA paramilitaries, and guns-for-hire taking the place of US soldiers. The war is not going to end, it’s just going to be “privatized.”

My philosophy has always been simple: we just marched in, so we can just march out. As we have learned recently, that is exactly what President Trump tried to do in the final days of his presidency, only to get cold feed after his military and national security “experts” told him it was a terrible idea. When the history of the Trump Administration is written, it will sadly be filled with stories of Trumps’ excellent instincts tossed aside by his inability to demand that those working for him follow his orders. It’s tragic.

We need to be completely out of Afghanistan. Yesterday.

Copyright © 2021 by RonPaul Institute

April 19, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 3 Comments

New Bill Seeks To Convince Biden To Implement ‘No First Use’ Nuclear Policy

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | April 18, 2021

Currently, the only global nuclear-armed powers with a “no first use” (NFU) nuclear policy are China and India. According to the working common definition, “A no-first-use policy means that the United States would pledge to use nuclear weapons only in retaliation for a nuclear attack.”

Going back to the Cold War the United States has consistently resisted implementing a no first use nuclear policy, stating it “reserves the right to use” nuclear weapons first in a conflict scenario, which was reaffirmed most recently in its Nuclear Posture Review in 2010.

And now Democratic lawmakers have reintroduced a bill in the House and Senate on Friday that seeks to prohibit the US from using nuclear weapons first.

Introduced by Democrats Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Rep. Adam Smith (WA) the bill introduces: “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.”

“Threatening to use nuclear weapons first makes America less safe because it increases the chances of a miscalculation or an accident,” Warren said in a statement arguing the bill’s urgency. “There are no winners in a nuclear war, and the US should never start one.”

Rep. Smith also affirmed, “The United States should never initiate a nuclear war,” in his statement, saying further, “This bill would strengthen deterrence while reducing the chance of nuclear use due to miscalculation or misunderstanding.”

According to The Hillthe Biden presidency could have a receptive ear to the change in policy:

Opponents of such a policy argue that taking the option off the table to use a nuclear weapon first could embolden adversaries and undermine the confidence of allies in the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

But the bill could find a more receptive audience in President Biden. Biden has not addressed the topic since he became president, but as vice president in 2017, he said he finds it “hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary or make sense.”

And further critics of America’s current nuclear posture most often emphasize that with the Cold War long behind us, the real concern should be “the chances of a miscalculation or an accident” – as the bill’s language underscores.

Nuclear treaties between the US and Russia, the latest major remaining one being New START which was renewed by Biden for five years, have further sought to mitigate this “unthinkable” disastrous scenario.

April 18, 2021 Posted by | Militarism | | 1 Comment

Biden’s Russia policy ludicrous, unbelievable, contradictory & unprecedented: First offers Putin summit & then imposes sanctions

By Paul Robinson | RT |  April 15, 2021

Just a month ago, US President Joe Biden indicated he believes his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin is a “killer.” But on Tuesday, he spoke to the ‘killer’ by phone and proposed that the pair meet for a face-to-face summit.

A few weeks is clearly a long time in politics.

So too, it seems, is a couple of days.

For on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declared that a summit between Biden and Putin would not go ahead in the near future. That does not mean that Moscow has definitively rejected a meeting at some point later, but it is clear that the Kremlin is not inclined to indulge Biden for now.

Peskov’s statement followed news that the United States was about to unveil a new set of economic sanctions against Russia, including measures to prevent American financial institutions from buying Moscow’s sovereign debt. The US also expelled ten Russian diplomats.

Consistency is generally a good thing. Sadly, US policy toward Russia appears to be decidedly inconsistent, offering an olive branch one day and then hitting with a big stick the next. From a Russian point of view, it must look two-faced, and consequently perhaps even worse than if it was straightforwardly hostile. What explains the mixed signals coming from Washington?

The basic starting point is that the US government views Russia as an aggressive challenger to the US-dominated world order. In addition, the Democratic party, which now holds both the presidency and Congress, is convinced that Russia, and Vladimir Putin specifically, was responsible for the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Domestic American politics do not allow for anything other than a hostile policy towards Russia. This is the new default position.

Thus the US intelligence community’s latest Annual Threat Assessment devotes an entire chapter to “Russian provocative actions”. This declares that, “Moscow will employ an array of tools – especially influence campaigns, intelligence and counterterrorism cooperation, military aid and combined exercises, mercenary operations, and arms sales – to advance its interests or undermine the interests of the United States and its allies.”

It follows from this that the US must hit back against Russia in order to punish it for its aggression, and to deter it from further actions.

In this context, Biden’s phone call and offer to normalize relations is rather out of place. One possible explanation for it is Ukraine. The war in Donbass between the Ukrainian government and the rebel Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics has gotten substantially hotter since the start of the year, with both sides breaking the ceasefire on a regular basis. Ukraine is alleged to have moved additional heavy equipment close to the front lines. Meanwhile, Moscow has been holding military exercises close to the Ukrainian border, possibly to deter Ukraine from launching an all-out assault on the rebels.

As a result, Western media and politicians have suggested that Russia might launch a surprise attack on Ukraine, while commentators on the Russian side have instead pointed the finger of blame at the USA, accusing it of egging the Ukrainians on. Tuesday’s phone call might suggest that Biden has blinked. Having allegedly pushed the Ukrainians to take a hard line against Russia, the United States has faced the reality of a tough Russian response, and decided to back off and calm things down.

In other words, Biden views Russia as an enemy, and is determined to push a hard line against it. But he doesn’t want war. Nor is there any evidence that he ever wanted to push Ukraine into a war with Russia – this is more of a fantasy of Russian TV talk show pundits than any sort of reality. The phone call and summit offer may be seen as a form of crisis management, walking the world back from the brink, but not as an indication of any significant change in overall policy.

The Kremlin’s unwillingness to immediately accept the summit offer is understandable. Moscow will no doubt be pleased that Biden appears to be trying to de-escalate the situation, but it is probably also deeply sceptical about the prospects of a summit meeting producing concrete results. If Biden can convince the Kremlin that he is serious about reaching agreement on specific issues, then its attitude will no doubt change. But for now there is little to be gained by the prospect of being lectured at and faced with threats and demands.

In any case, although the Russian government would no doubt favour a real dialogue, it’s not desperate for it. The United States appears not to fully appreciate how the world has changed in recent years, and the extent to which its former levers of power no longer work. The proposed sanctions on Russian sovereign debt are a case in point. There was a time when Russia would have been frightened by losing the prospect of accessing American money. Now, though, it no longer needs it. Not only does it hardly have any debt, but it also has access to other lenders, including both international and domestic ones.

Russia’s response to the summit offer suggests that Russia is willing to talk, but only on terms of equality. America, however, seems to think that it can force Russia to the negotiating table on its own terms. This is a profound mistake. The only question is how long it will take the Americans to realize it.

Paul Robinson is a professor at the University of Ottawa. He writes about Russian and Soviet history, military history, and military ethics, and is the author of the Irrussianality blog.

April 16, 2021 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

US Lawmakers Reintroduce Bill Barring Any American President From Leaving NATO Alliance

By Gaby Arancibia – Sputnik – 16.04.2021

Under the Trump administration, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a measure in an effort to prevent a sitting US president from withdrawing the nation from a military alliance, specifically NATO. However, the December 2020 initiative was never taken up for a vote by the full US Senate, which was then under Republican control.

A bipartisan group of US senators reintroduced a measure on Thursday that would effectively prevent any sitting American president from removing the Land of the Free from the decades-old NATO military alliance.

The bill was reintroduced into the Democrat-controlled Senate chamber by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), congressional members who both serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The legislation has been sponsored by several Republicans, Democrats and an independent.

The measure’s stipulations indicate that should a president want to withdraw from the alliance, they would need to get at least two-thirds approval from the US Senate.

However, in the event that the commander-in-chief attempts to jump ship without said approval, the bill would then prohibit funding for the withdrawal and authorize the Congressional Legal Counsel to challenge the matter in court.

“NATO has been a critical alliance for nearly 75 years,” Kaine remarked in a statement. “It has ably served the US, our NATO allies, and the world. This bill expresses clear congressional support for the continuing value of NATO and clarifies that no president acting alone can sever the bonds of the alliance.”

In an accompanying statement of his own, Rubio highlighted the importance of the alliance, noting that the military partnership “is more important than ever” in light of “Moscow’s growing subversive aggressions.”

“We must ensure no US president withdraws from NATO without the advice and consent of the Senate,” the lawmaker stressed.

Most recently, Russia’s military build-up along the Ukrainian border has remained under the spotlight, with the troop deployments being labeled a “provocation.” Moscow has rejected claims that the development is an incitement, explaining that the movements are meant to ensure the nation’s national security as NATO has undertaken its own build-up in the region.

A similar measure regarding a potential pullout from the NATO partnership was introduced in December 2019 as a response to former US President Donald Trump’s repeated criticism of the NATO alliance. At the time, Trump blasted NATO allies for not contributing enough funding to the organization, vowing to part ways from the defense block. However, Trump never delivered on the promise and instead referred to the potential withdrawal as “unnecessary.”

At present, any NATO member seeking to withdraw from the group must give a one-year “notice of denunciation” before being able to exit the treaty.

April 16, 2021 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

Chinese Foreign Ministry Calls for Promptly Starting Talks on Space Arms Control

Sputnik – 13.04.2021

BEIJING – China is calling on the global community to urgently start the negotiations on the space arms control, which should be based on a document proposed by Beijing and Moscow, the foreign ministry’s spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said on Tuesday.

“We are calling on the international community to start negotiations and reach agreement on arms control  in order to ensure space safety as soon as possible,” Zhao said at a briefing, noting that the talks should be based on the draft agreement proposed by the two countries.

“China has always been in favor of preventing an arms race in space, it has been actively promoting negotiations on a legally binding agreement on space arms control jointly with Russia,” the diplomat added.

Just on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for launching negotiations aimed at creating an internationalist instrument that would ban the deployment of any kinds of weapons in space. Lavrov proposed taking the Russian-Chinese draft document, introduced at the 2014 disarmament conference in Geneva, as a basis.

To stabilize the situation during a period when a multilateral document on non-militarization of space is being developed, Lavrov invited countries to join a Russian-promoted multilateral initiative on making a political commitment not to be the first to place weapons in outer space.

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

State Lawmakers Attack Federal Misuse of National Guard

By Brian McGlinchey | Stark Realities | April 6, 2021

Fed up after years of relentless National Guard deployments in undeclared wars, state lawmakers across the country are pushing legislation that would prohibit the use of Guard units in combat zones without a formal declaration of war by Congress.

The bills are being promoted by BringOurTroopsHome.US, a self-described organization of “right-of-center” veterans working to end American involvement in “endless wars” and restore congressional authority over war-making. The libertarian 10th Amendment Center is also backing the cause.

The proposed laws would require governors to determine the constitutionality of orders that place Guard units on federal active duty; where they’re deemed unconstitutional, the governor is required to take action to prevent the unit from being surrendered to federal control and sent into harm’s way.

The first “Defend the Guard” bill was conceived and introduced by Air Force veteran and West Virginia state legislator Pat McGeehan. While no state has enacted the law yet, interest is spreading widely, with legislators now pushing the measure in 31 states.

Conservative Veterans Taking Point

BringOurTroopsHome.US is led by Dan McKnight, a 13-year veteran of the Marine Corps Reserve, active duty Army and Idaho Army National Guard whose military service ended after he was injured in Afghanistan.

McKnight and many other veterans leading the drive against the War on Terror are from the right side of the political spectrum. That’s a sharp contrast to the typical antiwar veteran of the Vietnam era, but McKnight says vets from both wars share a common experience.

Today’s veterans “are coming home and saying the same thing (Vietnam vets did): ‘What was the point of that? What was our mission? We have no mission, we have no definition of success, we have no clear path to victory, we have no idea what victory means and we’re there without a constitutional authority to send us there’,” he says.

“Every one of us raised our hands and swore an oath to the Constitution…and when it says Congress shall be the only body to declare war, we take that to heart. And when Congress doesn’t do it, we understand bad things can happen: long, endless foreign misadventures,” says McKnight.

In a 2019 Pew Research poll, 64% of veterans said the war in Iraq wasn’t worth fighting; 58% said the same of Afghanistan. A January Concerned Veterans for America/YouGov poll found two-thirds or more of veterans support full withdrawals from both countries.

“The right-of-center veterans are now echoing the message of left-of-center veterans, and it’s hard to ignore when veterans from the entire political spectrum are saying the same thing: Enough already—if you want us to go and bleed and die and spend our lives and your treasure in a foreign land, then Congress should put their name on the line before we put our boots on the ground,” McKnight says.

That’s what the Constitution demands. In an impassioned speech at the West Virginia legislature last month, McGeehan quoted James Madison: “The Constitution supposes what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war and most prone to it. It has accordingly, with studied care, vested the question of war in the legislature.”

Deployments’ Steep Toll

The National Guard has played a major role in America’s post-9/11 militarism: As recently as December, more than 57,000 Guard members were deployed around the world.

The federal government’s reliance on the National Guard makes state legislatures an intriguing second front in the drive to curtail the War on Terror. “Defend the Guard” laws also give state lawmakers a rare chance to influence foreign policy—and to impose consequences for the executive branch’s usurpation of war powers.

The heavy reliance on the Guard takes a toll on soldiers, families, neighborhoods and states. The intense pace of National Guard deployments was underscored at a recent Defend the Guard hearing in South Dakota: While opposing “Defend the Guard,” the state adjutant general acknowledged that, during the entire Global War on Terrorism to date, the state has had all its troops home for just 42 days.

McKnight has friends who’ve done a staggering 12 or 13 overseas National Guard deployments. Beyond the risk to life and limb, and the hardships imposed on individuals, families and marriages, he says communities also pay a price.

Guard members “are police officers, tradesmen, mechanics, schoolteachers, attorneys. (When) they have to leave that job behind, it puts a burden on the community,” says McKnight. Upon their return, Guard members are generally guaranteed the option to reclaim their jobs—but that sometimes means displacing those who filled their positions while they were away, compounding the disruptive effect.

Deployments also prevent National Guard units from responding to crises at home—their primary reason for existing. For example:

  • When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005, thousands of the states’ National Guard soldiers were deployed to Iraq. Mississippi’s 223rd Engineer Battalion returned to repair hurricane damage—but was ordered to leave its equipment in Iraq for use by other units.
  • In 2020, as Oregon endured some of its worst wildfires ever, half the state’s National Guard helicopters were in Afghanistan, including all its CH-47 Chinooks—dual-rotor choppers capable of carrying 26,000-pound payloads and ideal for use in firefighting. The Oregon Guard did what it could with Blackhawk helicopters that have one tenth the lifting power.

The Empire Strikes Back

When Defend the Guard measures are introduced in state legislatures, the national security establishment and its allies emerge to defend the status quo—by hook or by crook.

In South Dakota, McKnight says, “the military-industrial complex…sent a two-star general to testify…and made all kinds of threats, and insinuated the state would lose their National Guard if they passed this bill, which is simply not true.”

Weeks ago, Republican Idaho Representative Joe Palmer, who chairs the state’s Transportation & Defense Committee, seemed to resort to underhanded tactics to kill a Defend the Guard bill.

He put the measure to an initial procedural vote in the committee, and declared it to have failed by voice vote. Video of the proceedings, however, shows the result of the voice vote to be unclear at best, and McKnight says his group’s post-vote polling of members suggests the measure would have advanced had Palmer taken a recorded vote.

If Palmer didn’t already know he should play fair with veterans who are trying to prevent fellow citizen-soldiers from dying in unconstitutional wars, he may be learning that lesson now: McKnight says his group facilitated an emergency meeting of the GOP committee in Palmer’s home town, which is now considering a resolution censuring Palmer for his conduct.

“If you want to play parliamentary tricks and the price of your tricks is the blood of my brothers and sisters who (deploy) over and over again, then we’re going to take some blood of our own, and we’re going to do that the way politicians understand, and that’s with voters in the primary and the general election,” says McKnight.

Sometimes, the establishment’s machinations are done away from cameras. In a 2015 interview, West Virginia’s McGeehan said he was summoned to a meeting in the Speaker’s office with the commander of the state National Guard. The general said he’d received a call from the Pentagon, threatening that, if Defend the Guard became law, West Virginia bases would find their way onto the list of installations targeted for closure.

Liz Cheney Intervenes to Thwart Wyoming Bill

McKnight says “the most offensive opposition that we’ve faced” came from U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney.

“When we pushed the Defend the Guard bill in Wyoming last year, she or her staff contacted members of the Wyoming legislature and said, ‘If this passes in Wyoming, I will personally see to it that two C-130 aircraft are stripped from Wyoming and sent to Texas’,” says McKnight, who was in Cheyenne to support the bill, along with U.S. Senator Rand Paul.

Bethany Baldes, Wyoming state director of BringOurTroopsHome.US, was also on hand. She too says lawmakers told her they received calls from Cheney’s office that included threats to send new C-130 cargo planes to Texas. (Cheney’s communications director has not replied to an invitation to comment on this story.)

The measure failed, 35-22. A statement signed by a group of Wyoming senators opposing the measure seemed to turn logic on its head by claiming the bill “calls into question Wyoming’s support for our soldiers and airmen in the National Guard.”

That episode was McKnight’s second jarring encounter with Cheney, whom he describes as a “warmonger heiress of a military-industrial fortune.” Months before, he and other veterans met with Cheney in Washington to urge her to support the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

“We went into Liz Cheney’s office and we asked her, ‘What conditions must be met on the ground for you to support ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing our troops home?’ And she said, ‘I don’t think I could ever support that position’.”

Pressing the issue, the veterans asked Cheney how long troops should remain. “She looked us stone-faced in the eye and said, ‘Forever. American troops will be in Afghanistan forever’,” says McKnight. “That’s when we decided it was time to step away from the swamp and work in the states, and force the states to force Congress’s hand.”

April 12, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | | Leave a comment

Ukraine claims Russia ignoring call for crunch talks to avert all-out war in Donbass, but Moscow says it never received an invite

RT | April 12, 2021

The Kremlin has denied ignoring requests from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to hold a crisis summit after days of bloody escalations in the war-torn Donbass region, insisting it hasn’t actually been invited to take part.

On Monday morning, a government spokeswoman in Kiev claimed that an appeal for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin had gone unacknowledged. Yulia Mendel told journalists from Reuters that “we have not received an answer yet and we very much hope that this is not a refusal of dialogue.”

However, later that day, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that he was unaware of the request, and had not seen any such contact from Ukrainian officials in recent days.

Mendel has since aimed to dispel any confusion, claiming that “the request for negotiations came immediately after the death of four servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine – on March 26,” in an answer given to Interfax-Ukraine.

A statement posted by Zelensky to Twitter that day said, “we lost four defenders of Ukraine again. Sincere condolences.” He added that he urged all leaders of the Normandy Format, comprised of Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and France, “to do their utmost to preserve a full and comprehensive ceasefire.” It is unclear if a formal request was sent alongside the message.

Last week, Russian diplomats announced they had reached out to their US counterparts for emergency discussions over the situation in Donbass, with Peskov describing the situation on the contact line as frightening. Amid reports of increased shelling, Kiev’s forces have clashed with Moscow-backed separatist militants based in the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

At the same time, US State Department spokesman Ned Price warned that Washington had seen credible reports of Russia amassing troops near the shared border, and issued a “call on Russia to refrain from escalatory actions.”

On Thursday, Putin’s deputy chief of staff, Dmitry Kozak, said Moscow would be forced to protect the residents of the Donbass region if the Ukrainian Army were to launch an all-out offensive. “Everything depends on what the scale of fighting will be.”

Putin has previously warned of a humanitarian crisis akin to the Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims during the breakup of Yugoslavia, remembered as one of Europe’s bloodiest post-war incidents. If this were to happen, Peskov said, “no country in the world would stand aside. And all countries, including Russia, would take measures to prevent such tragedies from happening again.”

April 12, 2021 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Russia Calls for Talks on Binding Treaty to Prohibit Weapons in Space – Lavrov

Sputnik – 11.04.2021

MOSCOW – Russia has called for talks to create a legally binding international instrument that would ban the deployment of any type of weapons in space, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic space flight.

The anniversary of the first Soviet cosmonaut’s flight, marking the beginning of humanity’s space era, is celebrated every year in Russia as Cosmonautics Day on April 12. On the same day, the world marks the International Day of Human Space Flight.

“We consistently believe that only a guaranteed prevention of an arms race in space will make it possible to use it for creative purposes, for the benefit of the entire mankind. We call for negotiations on the development of an international legally binding instrument that would prohibit the deployment of any types of weapons there, as well as the use of force or the threat of force,” Lavrov said in a video message on the anniversary of the first manned space flight.

The minister offered to use as a basis a relevant Russian-Chinese draft treaty submitted in 2014 to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

To stabilize the situation during a period when a multilateral document on non-militarization of space is being developed, Lavrov invited countries to join a Russian-promoted multilateral initiative on making a political commitment to avoid being the first entity to place weapons in orbit around Earth.

The top Russian diplomat noted that some 30 countries are full-fledged participants in the initiative.

Lavrov also emphasized that space cooperation should remain one of the most important aspects of the international agenda.

“Over the past decades, Russia, as a leader in space exploration, has provided assistance to a number of states in launching cosmonauts into orbit. At the UN Outer Space Committee, we are maintaining a consistent stance to ensure equal access of states to outer space and its conservation for future generations,” the Russian foreign minister said.

Lavrov stressed that Russia’s Yuri Gagarin, who became the first person in space, made a huge contribution to the development of humanity and demonstrated Russia’s ability to effectively resolve the most difficult tasks. His memory continues to inspire people across the world in their honorable and ambitious aspirations, Lavrov said.

On April 12, 1961, Gagarin pronounced his famous “Poyekhali!” (“Let’s Go!”) as the Vostok spacecraft lifted off the ground, taking the first human to space.

In 2011, the UN General Assembly declared April 12 the International Day of Human Space Flight.

April 12, 2021 Posted by | Militarism | | 1 Comment

Sunbeams From Cucumbers: The View From the Khanate of Kaganstan

By Patrick Armstrong | Strategic Culture Foundation | April 10, 2021

We now have the complete set, so to speak. The Khans of the Khanate of Kaganstan have both spoken. The husband in A Superpower, Like It or Not and the wife in Pinning Down Putin: How a Confident America Should Deal With Russia; he, so to speak, is the theorist and she the practitioner. She, Victoria Nuland, is back in power as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. She is, of course, infamous for the leaked phonecall during the Maidan putsch. He, Robert Kagan, is one of the founders of the – what now has to be seen as ill-named – Project for the New American Century.

I mentioned Kagan’s piece in an earlier essay and found it remarkable for two things – the flat learning curve it displays and its atmosphere of desperation. PNAC was started in a time of optimism about American power: it was the hyperpower and nothing was impossible for it. Its role in the world should be, Kagan confidently wrote in 1996, “Benevolent global hegemony”. Washington should be the world HQ:

superpower, love it!

A quarter century later his message is:

superpower, endure it.

Quite a difference. Today “there is no escape from global responsibility… the task of maintaining a world order is unending and fraught with costs but preferable to the alternative”.

Kagan is at a loss to explain his difference in tone, or, more likely, he’s unaware of it. The reason, however, is quite easy to understand – failure. Washington followed the neocons’ advice into disaster: it’s been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for two decades and it’s losing. The forever wars have come home: its economy is fading, its politics are shattered, its debt load is stunning, its social harmony is eroding. It’s not at the top of the hill any more. Brzezinski warned that a Russia-China alliance would be the greatest threat to U.S. predominance but thought it could be averted by skilful diplomacy. Well, as it turned out, U.S. actions (the word “diplomacy” is hardly applicable) drove Moscow and Beijing together and the strong domestic base that they all took for granted is crumbling. And, to a large extent, it has been the neocons, the wars they encouraged, the exceptionalism they displayed, the arrogance they embodied, that has created this state of affairs. Kagan should look in the mirror if he wants to know why Americans’ perception of superpower status changed from exultant opportunity to dreary duty.

With this background, we turn our attention to Nuland’s views about what should be done about Russia (“Putin’s Russia” of course – these people personalise everything). Her piece entertainingly marries stunning ignorance about Russia to stunning naïvety about prescriptions. There is no point in boring the reader by trudging through her nonsense, so I will just pick a few things.

Those three are enough – Victoria Nuland, for all that she pretends to superior knowledge, is absurdly unaware of the real situation in Russia. And it’s not as if it’s all that hidden, either: all the sources I mention above are in English and easy to find. In her world, Russia is guilty of everything Rachel Maddow says it is, including using cyberweapons against electrical grids.

What are her prescriptions? And, again, for someone who poses as an expert on Russia, they’re laughable. Her general theme is that Washington and its allies have let Putin get away with too much for too long and it’s time to take back control:

Washington and its allies have forgotten the statecraft that won the Cold War and continued to yield results for many years after. That strategy required consistent U.S. leadership at the presidential level, unity with democratic allies and partners, and a shared resolve to deter and roll back dangerous behavior by the Kremlin. It also included incentives for Moscow to cooperate and, at times, direct appeals to the Russian people about the benefits of a better relationship. Yet that approach has fallen into disuse, even as Russia’s threat to the liberal world has grown.

Whoever wins the U.S. presidential election this coming fall will—and should—try again with Putin. The first order of business, however, must be to mount a more unified and robust defense of U.S. and allied security interests wherever Moscow challenges them. From that position of strength, Washington and its allies can offer Moscow cooperation when it is possible. They should also resist Putin’s attempts to cut off his population from the outside world and speak directly to the Russian people about the benefits of working together and the price they have paid for Putin’s hard turn away from liberalism.

In short: reassert “leadership”, “resolve”, “position of strength”; the now familiar PNAC “strategy” that has failed for twenty-five years.

A few gems stick out.

  • “No matter how hard Washington and its allies tried to persuade Moscow that NATO was a purely defensive alliance that posed no threat to Russia, it continued to serve Putin’s agenda to see Europe in zero-sum terms.” No comment necessary or possible: this is just as solipsistic as describing a Russian military exercise in Russia as “Russia’s Military Drills Near NATO Border Raise Fears of Aggression“.
  • The U.S. and its allies should continue “maintaining robust defense budgets”. As if they weren’t already hugely outspending Moscow. She knows they aren’t keeping up because she goes on to say they must spend more to “protect against Russia’s new weapons systems”. Perhaps the West’s behaviour has something to do with this? Perhaps a lot of the Western spending is a waste? No, too much for her: she can sometimes glimpse reality but her exceptionalism prevents her from seeing it.
  • “The one lesson Putin appears to have learned from the Cold War is that U.S. President Ronald Reagan successfully bankrupted the Soviet Union by forcing a nuclear arms race”. No, the lesson that Putin learned is that enough is enough and too much is too much. Brezhnev & Co didn’t get that. It’s the S. that will bankrupt itself chasing down “full-spectrum dominance”.

But the most ridiculous suggestion is surely this:

With appropriate security screening, the United States and others could permit visa-free travel for Russians between the ages of 16 and 22, allowing them to form their own opinions before their life paths are set. Western states should also consider doubling the number of government-supported educational programs at the college and graduate levels for Russians to study abroad and granting more flexible work visas to those who graduate.

She seems to think that its 1990-something. But, in the real world it’s 2021. Russians have been to the West; Russians know about it; they travel; all over the place. If Nuland ever left her bubble she would see that every European tourist spot has Russian-language guidebooks. I read through her screed with growing contempt but that really sealed it for me: Victoria Nuland hasn’t got a clue. The truth is, that the more Russians see of the West, the less impressed they are. Just ask Mariya Butina.

Again a bit of reality leaks through, from time to time, but she is incapable of reflection:

The first order of business is to restore the unity and confidence of U.S. alliances in Europe and Asia and end the fratricidal rhetoric, punitive trade policies, and unilateralism of recent years. The United States can set a global example for democratic renewal by investing in public health, innovation, infrastructure, green technologies, and job retraining while reducing barriers to trade.

Actually, doing all this is quite a big job; a very big job; too big a job in fact. And, even if Washington were to seriously start “investing in public health, innovation, infrastructure, green technologies, and job retraining while reducing barriers to trade”, remedying the numerous deficiencies would take many years.

Another thing that she dimly perceives is the gap between Russian and American weapons capabilities. Of course she can’t see any connection between that and U.S./NATO behaviour or Washington’s forever wars: it’s just another nasty thing done by that nasty man in the Kremlin. However, it is actually encouraging that she knows, however dimly; it creates the possibility that she understands that an actual war with Russia would be a bad idea. So that’s something, anyway.

* * *

However, enough consideration of this ill-informed, complacent, unrealistic sunbeam. If this were a comparative treatise on the American extraction of sunbeams from cucumbers as contrasted with the failed attempts of the so-called savants of Laputa it would be amusing, but the author of this footling effort is a few arm’s lengths away from The Nuclear Button. It is not a joke.

The fading Imperium Americanum is influenced by dangerous ignoramuses like Nuland and her husband. Everything they have suggested has failed: they start in complacency, add to it ignorance and learn nothing; but they’re still there. It’s very frightening.

* * *

Speaking of “Putin’s information stranglehold”, Nuland’s essay is available at INOSMI translated into Russian and so is her husband’s. Russians can read this stuff and form their own opinions. “Putin’s disinformation campaigns” are so clever that they use real information.

We won’t tell you that they’re dangerous idiots;
we’ll let them tell you that they’re dangerous idiots.

April 11, 2021 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

Russian-Ukrainian War: Tragedy For People, Chance For Elites

South Front – April 10, 2021

Against the backdrop of ongoing political provocations and bellicose rhetoric from all parties involved in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, military escalation is constantly growing. Local forces, as well as the OSCE observers, report about more and more ceasefire violations in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. There are daily statements on casualties on both sides of the conflict among the military and local civilians.

Now, when all the global media are closely following the situation in the eastern regions of Ukraine, the international community is wondering whether Donbass will become the point of the next military conflict, and what its scale will be. The main question is “Cui Prodest”?

The answer is unambiguous: the administration of Ukrainian President is a real stakeholder in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. In the current Ukrainian reality, there are plenty of circumstances that determine the pattern of conduct of Volodimir Zelensky.

First, the current economic situation in Ukraine is disastrous. The Ukrainian state is on the way to lose the ability to fulfill its social obligations. According to the data for 2020, its GDP in real terms suffered about 4% drop. According to the IMF, this drop will be at least 7%. If for the United States, China or Russia, a 4% drop in GDP is a big problem, for Ukraine it is almost a disaster, as GDP indicators were low even before the crisis.

Secondly, the economic situation in Ukraine was aggravated by the coronacrisis. The number of those contaminated by COVID-19 per day there is one of the biggest among the European countries, and even in the whole world. The death rate is also disproportionately high. The country’s economy is suffering, as most regions are still under lockdown, and since April 5, restrictions have been tightened again.

The fall in national budget income was caused by a complex of reasons, including pure management of national economy and the extremely high level of corruption that caused the destruction of the industrial complex, drop in already low per capita income, accompanied by a decreasing revenue gained from gas and cargo transit from East to West.

Third, the Zelensky administration is now facing a rapid decrease in people’s support. The national disappointment in his political program is caused by the rejection of his campaign promises to stop the war in Donbass.

Fourthly, it is increasingly difficult for NATO allies to fuel Kiev’s anti-Russian hysteria in the absence of any actual changes of the issue. The military conflict in the Eastern Ukraine is already 7 years old, and the only alarming statements no longer contribute to the increase in financial support from the US and its allies.

The last but not least is a political request from a part of the American elite, who are interested in various forms of pressuring Russia. They support blocking of the Nord Stream 2 project by any means; destruction of bilateral relations between Russia and leading European countries, up to war outbreak along its borders.

On the other hand, such a policy of the United States does not fully coincide with the national interests of leading European countries. However, new war in Eastern Ukraine would define Russian status as enemy for years while the US will strengthen its weight in European security.

The position of the Zelensky administration and the interests of the United States represent sufficient set of reasons to outbreak war in Eastern Ukraine.

Indeed, official Kiev does not need to care about the actual result of the conflict, but its very existence.

There are only 3 scenarios of the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

  • The Ukrainian army wholly or partially occupies the territory of the DLPR.
  • The forces of both sides remain in their current positions.
  • The DLPR forces, with Russian support, advance on the Ukrainian territory for several dozens of miles.

There is almost a zero probability that Ukraine will suffer a crushing defeat and the DLPR forces will occupy the territory to the Dnieper River. Russia now has neither the strength nor the ability to gain control over such a vast territory, and the collective West, in its turn, would not let this happen.

If any of the above scenarios are implemented, Zelensky and his supporters among the US elites will benefit.

For many years, the US and European media have shaped Russia as the aggressor, the enemy of democratic values and the authoritarian tyrannical regime that must be contained. The idea of an external military threat, which being sequentially built up by the West, serves as a pretext for its increasing military funding both in defense industry and army itself amid inevitable unification under the US leadership.

In its turn, Ukraine, positioning itself as the Eastern European Shield against “Asian Barbarians”, receives significant and steadily growing support from NATO countries, gaining momentum to development and further nazi-like ideology originally rooted in Western Ukraine.

Unleashing the war, Zelensky has a chance to reclaim his status as the national leader. In case of the conquest of the self-proclaimed republics, or the preservation of the current troops’ positions, he will become a hero who saved Ukraine from “evil Russians”.

Even after having lost the war, he would claim that the entire country was saved with little blood and only a small piece of land that was temporary lost, taking on the role of a good strategist who defended the sovereignty in the furious fighting shoulder to shoulder with his NATO allies.

Zelensky’s policy can only fail if Russia captures half of Ukraine, which de facto is not possible.

Thus, almost whatever may happen during the conflict, Ukraine can be sure that it will receive stable financial flows from its Western allies for years ahead. Having become a “real” Eastern Shield of Europe, Ukraine may finally get the coveted NATO membership.

Finally yet importantly – the hot military conflict will undoubtedly divert public attention from the economic problems inside the country.

Unleashing a war in Donbass will allow Zelensky to solve his main problems, albeit at the cost of lives of thousands of Ukrainians.

Today, many analysts assure that there will not be a full-scale war, since Ukraine is weak, and Zelensky must assess the country’s military strength in front of the Russian power. Let’s hope this is the case, while remembering who the beneficiary of the conflict is.

In its turn, the United States, at the cost of Ukrainian soldiers’ lives, can resolve a good part of its problems in the European region, while Russia seems to lose strategically in any of these war scenarios.

Definitely, the war in Ukraine will lead to the closure of the Nord Stream 2 project, which is already at the final stage of construction. Key contacts between Russia and NATO countries will be frozen, no more significant bilateral cooperation in the economy will be possible.

A new war near the Russian borders that involves national armed forces will have an important impact on the internal situation in the country. It is not clear to what extent the Russian society, which has suffered the break of economic relations with Western countries and numerous sanctions, is ready to support the struggle for Donbass.

April 10, 2021 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 3 Comments

The Yankees Are Coming Home: The Taliban Won. Get Over It

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | April 8, 2021

It hardly made the evening news, but the New York Times reported last week that after twenty years of fighting, the Taliban are confident that they will fully control Afghanistan before too long whether or not the United States decides to leave some kind of residual force in the country after May 1st. The narrative is suggestive of The Mouse that Roared, lacking only Peter Sellers to put the finishing touches on what has to be considered a great humiliation for the U.S., which has a “defense” budget that is larger than the combined military spending of the next seven countries in order of magnitude. Those numbers include both Russia and China. The Taliban, on the other hand, have no military budget to speak of. That enormous disparity, un-reflected in who has won and lost, has to nurture concerns that it is the world’s only superpower, admittedly self-proclaimed, which is incapable of actually winning a war against anyone.

In fact, some recent wargaming has suggested that the United States would lose in a non-nuclear conflict with China alone based on the obsolescence of expensive and vulnerable weapons systems that the Pentagon relies upon, such as carrier groups. Nations like China, Iran and Russia that have invested in sophisticated and much cheaper missile systems to offset U.S. advantages have reportedly spent their money wisely. If the Biden foreign policy and military experts, largely embroiled in diversifying the country, choose to take on China, there may be no one left around to pick up the pieces.

Those who are warning of the apparent ineffectiveness of the U.S. armed forces in spite of their global presence in more than one thousand bases point most commonly to the historical record to make their case. Korea, fought under United Nations auspices, was a stalemate, with the peninsula divided to this day and a substantial American military force continuing to be a presence along the DMZ to enforce the armistice that not quite ended the war. Vietnam was a defeat, resulting in more than 58,000 Americans dead as well as an estimated 3 million Vietnamese, most of whom were civilians. The real lesson learned from Vietnam was that fighting on someone else’s turf where you have no real interests or stake in the outcome is a fool’s game, but the Pentagon instead worked to fix the mechanics in weapons and training at great cost without addressing why people fight wars in the first place. The other lesson was that the United States’ military was perfectly willing to lie to the country’s civilian leadership to expand the war and keep it going, a performance that was repeated in 2001 with the “Iraq is supporting terrorists and will have nuclear weapons” lies and also with the current crop of false analogies used to keep thousands of Americans in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

As a veteran of the Vietnam War army, I can recall sitting around with fellow enlisted men reading “Stars & Stripes,” the exclusive in-house-for-the-military newspaper that was covering the war. The paper quoted a senior officer who opined that the Soviets (as they were at that time) were really envious of the combat experience that the United States Army was obtaining in Vietnam. We all laughed. That same officer probably had a staff position away from the fighting but we draftees knew well that the war was a very bloody mistake while he may have tested his valor post-retirement working for Lockheed-Martin. The “Soviets” in any event demonstrated just how much they envied the experience of combat when they fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s, eventually withdrawing with their tails between their legs just as the U.S. had done in Vietnam after they lost 15,000 men. The “Grave of Empires,” indeed.

Since Vietnam there have been a number of small wars in places like Panama and Grenada, but the global war on terror has been a total disaster for American arms. Afghanistan, as it was for the Russians, is the ulcer that keeps on bleeding until it ends as a major defeat for the United States with the Taliban fully in control, as they are now predicting. Likewise, the destruction of a secular Iraq, regime change in Libya, and a continuing war against a non-threatening Syria have all failed to make Americans either safer or more prosperous. Iran is next, apparently, if the Joe Biden Administration has its way, and relations with major adversaries Russia and China have sunk even lower than they were during Donald Trump’s time as president. The White House has recently sent a shipload of offensive weapons to Kiev and the Ukrainian government has repeated its intention to retake Crimea from Russia, a formula for a new military disaster that could easily escalate into a major war. What is particularly regrettable is the fact that the United States has no compelling national interest in encouraging open warfare between Moscow and Kiev, a conflict that it will be unable to avoid as its is supplying Ukraine with weaponry.

There was almost no discussion of America’s wars during the recent election. One should take note, however, of a recent article by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb that appeared on National Review which seeks to provide an explanation for “The Real Reason the U.S. Can’t Win Wars Anymore” in spite of the fact that it is “the most powerful country in the history of the world.” To be sure, Korb largely blames the policymakers for the defeat in Vietnam, aided and abetted by a culture of silence in the military where many officers knew that the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which escalated the conflict, was a fraud but chose to say or do nothing. He also observes that the war itself was unwinnable for various reasons, including the observation by many working and middle class Americans that they were little more than cannon fodder while the country’s elites either dodged the draft or exploited their status to obtain national guard or reserve commissions that were known to be mechanism to avoid Vietnam. Korb notes that “… the four most recent presidents who could have served in Vietnam avoided that war and the draft by dubious means. Bill Clinton pretended to join the Army ROTC; George W. Bush used political connections to get into the Air National Guard, when President Johnson made it clear that the reserve component would not be activated to fight the war; Donald Trump, of course, had his family physician claim he had bone spurs, (Trump himself cannot remember which foot); and Joe Biden claimed that the asthma he had in high school prevented him from serving even though he brags about his athletic exploits while in high school.”

Korb also reveals how America’s presumed prowess on the battlefield has distorted its “democracy building” endeavors to such an extent that genuine national interests have been ignored. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, success in overthrowing the Taliban was derived from critical assistance from Iran, which correctly regarded the extremist Sunni group as an enemy. But the Bush White House, far from showing gratitude, soon thereafter added Iran to its “axis of evil” list. A golden opportunity was wasted to repair a relationship which has poisoned America’s presence in the Middle East ever since.

One might add something else to Korb’s assessment of failure at war. Most American soldiers have been and are proud of their service and consider it an honor to defend their country but the key word is “defend.” There was no defending going on in Vietnam nor in Afghanistan, which did not attack the U.S. and was willing to turn over Osama Bin Laden if the White House could provide evidence that he was involved in 9/11. Nor was there anything defensive about Obama’s destruction of Libya and the decades long “secret” wars to overthrow the Syrian and Iranian governments. Soldiers are trained to fight and obey orders but that does not mean that they can no longer observe and think. Twenty years of “Reconstruction” duty in Afghanistan is not defending the United States and the morale of American soldiers in the combined Democratic and Republican Parties’ plan to reconstruct the world is not a sufficient motivator if one is being asked to put one’s life on the line. Sure, American soldiers can still win wars, but it has to be a real war where there is something genuine at stake, like protecting one’s home and family. That is what the people who run Washington, very few of whom are veterans and most of whom first ask “But what’s in it for me?” fail to understand.

April 9, 2021 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Russia: US Military Activity in Arctic Region Source of Escalating Tensions

Al-Manar | April 9, 2021

Russia stressed on Friday that tensions in the Arctic region only escalate due to the US military activities.

Commenting on US reports about Russia’s “unprecedented military might in the Arctic,” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow’s action in the region do not pose any threat and do not violate international laws.

“Russia does not do anything in the Arctic that would contradict international law or pose a threat to other countries,” Zakharova said at a briefing.

“If we talk about possible sources of the escalating regional tensions, it would be logical to say that this is the military activity of the US and its allies in the Arctic, which is accompanied by belligerent rhetoric. NATO and its member states, including non-Arctic nations, stage provocations there, and it happens on an increasingly regular basis,” she was quoted as saying by Sputnik news agency.

Washington has already said it plans to send a vast number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and F-22 Raptors to Alaska, adding that the US is determined to “protect its interests in the Arctic Ocean”. The Pentagon also said that the US Navy will begin South China Sea-style patrols in the Russian Arctic maritime zones as it attempts to challenge both Moscow and Beijing.

April 9, 2021 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment