The Drums of War: Ukrainian Independence or German Subjugation
Ukrainian Independence or German Subjugation
[Image: the coats of arms of the Russian Federation and the Federal Republic of Germany. Public domain. Source Wikipeidia.]
Publication date: 2022-02-12
A Little Humor as an Apéritif
Contemplating a war in Europe, given recent history, is not a pleasant prospect. Your author has been hunting for informed and non-mainstream opinion to provide you with a greater context than that one is likely to reach by watching or reading "the news". Perhaps its all been a little too serious? Why not a journey from the humorous, via some more calm opinion to an interesting theory on one of the motivations behind all of this silliness?
Let's start with some loose language ridden opinion that summaries so much of this sad story that one can temporarily ignore the seriousness of the situation.
Feels better, doesn't it?
A Robust Red
Deference to our "senior citizens" is wise. They've experienced more and have a much broader understanding into which to integrate recent events. Additionally, they are either close to or post retirement and have a greater freedom to express their opinions without fearing retribution, financial or reputational. Of particular value for the geopolitical topic which this newsletter covers are senior historians (e.g Peter Kuznick), diplomats (e.g Tony Kevin), statesman (e.g Paul Keating) and journalists (e.g John Pilger or Joe Lauria).
A challenge has been finding a close analogy to the current situation over Ukraine in recent history, with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 being the best so far explored. Responsible Statescraft has just published a piece by David Kaiser in which he employs the Berlin crisis of 1958-1962 as a better analogy. The piece is dry in the style of academia, brief and contains sufficient historical detail to justify the comparison.
Percy Allan, a senior civil servant, argues in Pearls and Irritations, after making the Cuban Missile comparison, that history needs be understood to see the picture and a resolution of the situation. The short piece threads relevant history, makes reasonable assumptions and pleads for calm.
Again at Pearls and Irritations we have Graeme Gill, Professor Emeritus at University of Sydney, examining Russian motives and the relevancy of NATO in the post Cold War era. However, he provides us with a nice example of reading carefully and educating ourselves in modern history which our senior commentators may, now and then, be under-educated on. Prof Gill is trying to engage an Australia commentator of dubious worth, Peter Hartcher. Gill is splitting hairs with Hartcher on the topic of whether "the era of US dominion has passed". To establish the case that Putin is a believer of this, he provides the following paragraph:
This has been the case since 2014-15 when Barack Obama’s warning that if Bashar Al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people this would be a red line, but when Assad did this Obama did nothing. The perception of American weakness was reinforced by the Trump presidency and, for those who accept this view, illustrated by the retreat from Afghanistan. So this perception of American weakness, plus the evident disagreement among the Europeans over Russia, created the vacuum for Putin to act.
His error is the first sentence. The expert on the matter of the alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria, and especially that in Douma, is Aaron Mate who has proven beyond a doubt that USA interference in the investigation into the Douma event by the OPCW lead to key evidence being suppressed and misleading conclusions being issued. This throws into doubt earlier events, which experts like Professor Postol from MIT had already shown were dubious.
Many may not know that in order to assist USA President Obama and Syrian President Assad, Putin convinced Assad to have destroyed all of Syria's aged chemical weapons. Putin took this offer to Obama as a way for him to avoid the building pressure of war because of his "red line" regarding the use of chemical weapons. Destroyed those weapons were, in 2013 aboard USA vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. This did not dissuade the war mongering USA media mis-representing events on the ground. They were assisted by the UK FCO/MI6 funded and coordinated "civil defence" White Helmets who provided the footage to the USA media for the events. Using NGO's as a Trojan horse to foment civil political dissent is an old tactic, but using a "human rights" variant that was so active on the ground providing media feeds became a new variant thereof. The whole series of misleading events and the funding sources have been well researched now and are available to those who wish to undertake the research.
[See the special section "Sources on Syria" below for an overview of useful sources to gain a deeper understanding of what really happened during the Syrian Proxy War.]
None of this undermines Prof Gill's arguments. Its a lesson that placing absolute trust in a source is a fool's errand. The challenge is to acknowledge that which is well argued and founded, and to still identify weaknesses; to separated the chaff from the hay.
Coffee and Malt
Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine, though she is interested in defending the Russian/Russian speaking citizens of the Donbass for at least three reasons:
if they gain autonomous region status and that includes influence on military alliances it "solves" the NATO membership problem
Putin does actually feel for the "orphaned" 80+ million Russian peoples who were resident in the non-Russian Soviet Socialist Republics following the dissolution of the USSR. These people have often incurred serious discrimination at the hands of the local population for poor policies implemented under the USSR which they had little hand in.
Preserving the Donbass "breakaway" republics places a bulwark between "western" Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula, and particularly, Sevastopol.
Why is Russia making these demands for legally binding security guarantees now? Because she can.
The issue has been on the table for 15 years, since President Putin’s speech to the Munich security conference of 2007, and the west has done precisely nothing about it. Now Russia has a diverse economy exporting energy, military hardware and food. Her alliance with China provides her with strong support, especially as China is arguably the leading global national economy. Additionally, both Russia and China have extensive foreign reserves, predominantly in non-USA dollars, or in gold, and Russia has very little national debt. The BRI project to economically integrate Asia is well under way. The recent coup against Kazakhstan failed, and helpfully put the fear of god into the other central Asian republics. Russia also has leading military technology and a retrained and rearmed military. Russia, with her alliance, military and the state of her economy is immune from significant damage via economic or kinetic war. She has been the leading voice in using diplomacy to address these issues for years. She is only “vulnerable” to propaganda.
With that out of the way, we can now ask, why is the USA beating the drums of war in Ukraine? Their hand was behind the 2014 "Maidan" coup and they have been picking the political leaders, or at least heavily controlling them, ever since. The result of this has been a civil war and a massive decline in Ukraine’s economy.
[Image: from Google financials (using MAX time) showing the two massive crashes in the value of the Ukrainian currency vs the USA dollar since the beginning of the existence of the UAH.]
Why since October/November 2021 has the USA been at the war drums for Ukraine? Recall that the USA had to switch focus from Taiwan.
A simple answer is that the USA is always beating these drums; its weapons industry is one of its largest and has immense influence over the media, legislative and executive branches of governments. Yes, but why switch the narrative from Taiwan to Ukraine? Because Russia significantly increased its troop presence on the borders? Yes, but only a little, as stated by Ukraine's President and Minister of Defense recently.
Alexander Mercouris when commenting on the recent Biden and Scholz press conference in Washington was ruminating on why there was so much pressure on Scholz to mention the Nord Stream II pipeline? Very close to that event was a press conference in Kyiv with President Zelensky and German Foreign Minister Baerbock during which the same pressure was brought to bear. Mr Mercouris sees the continuity and draws the conclusion that the idea is to have either Scholz or Baerbock commit to the abandonment of the pipeline if there is violence delivered on Ukraine by Russia. His conclusion is that if this commitment is made, then "as night follows day" some violence will be begun in eastern Ukraine which demands a Russian response. Then there will be a pile on of diplomatic pressure for Germany to drop the pipeline project. This is a very plausible scenario. Indeed, recent days have seen a huge increase in military activity on the contact line in Donbass as reported by the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. But, why? The farthest Mercouris would go was to roll out the old line that NATO serves three purposes for Europe: "keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down".
One could take the insight to a wider conclusion. What "grand strategy" geopolitical movements have happened over the last decade?
On the USA side one sees the shifting wars of the War on Terror from Iraq and its partial draw down, to the nation smashing of Libya, the coup in Ukraine, the (lost) proxy war in Syria, the withdrawal from Afghanistan and a whole sequence of coups (of mixed results) and economic warfare in Latin and Central America involving Nicaragua, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil. Oh, and Cuba.
Is there are "grand strategy" here? In the America's, yes, sort of. Its the "Monroe Doctrine" in action. From northern Africa, through the Middle East and into central Asia and eastern Europe, apart from "general destabilization" no real "grand strategy" can be seen.
There is, however, another much more slower, deliberate, incremental, planned "grand strategy" at play which this newsletter has been highlighting since its inception; that of the Belt and Road Initiative. On February 4th, 2022 China and Russia issued what is essentially a geopolitical manifesto, their vision for the principles and methods of international relations during this century.
Should one look at the pressure on Germany to abandon the Nord Stream II project in this light one could perhaps arrive at a more plausible motivation. The USA military have done war gaming over Taiwan, and every time the blue team "USA" gets its arse handed to it. Every reputable analyst will tell you the same for any conflict in eastern Europe for the simple reason of logistics. There is no military solution for the USA to either the western or eastern flanks of the China/Russia alliance. What about economic destruction? Analysis in this direction seems to imply that charting this course would cause global financial disruption from which neither the USA nor Europe can escape. To go back to the plutocrats; they don't want this either. So, can it be scaled back? Can we have a series of smaller interactions on a military or financial basis that will buy the USA time to establish a position from where it can engage this newly declared alliance? That seems to be the plan, of which the Kazakh coup was a just another test case.
On the financial front the mission seems to be to scuttle the Nord Stream II project for at least two purposes:
Provide income to the USA's LNG industries providing gas to Europe. This is a bit silly really, as has been discussed. Europe has neither the storage capacity, nor offloading capacity, nor pipeline capacity to replace Russian gas with that from the USA or Qatar
Warn the Germans to not forge further economic ties with Russia
It is the last point which carries the day. What could be worse than the China/Russia alliance? How about it being complemented by strong economic ties between Russia and Germany?!! These Russo-German ties have long been a bugbear for the NATO leadership and that bear has been incrementally awakening.
Who asked for the Nord Stream II pipeline?
Michael Hudson has recently provided an extended analysis of the financial relationship between the USA and her NATO allies over the period of the alliance. The long piece provides and excellent overview of the USA’s economic tactics in international relations with a particular focus on her NATO allies.
The War in Ukraine Will Not Take Place: The New Cold War as Simulacra, Nicky Reid, CounterPunch, 2022-02-11
Putin is channeling Khrushchev at the height of the Cold War, David Kaiser, Responsible Statecraft, 2022-02-11
Historical understanding will go a long way towards resolving Ukraine crisis, Percy Allan, Pearls and Irritations, 2022-02-11
Putin and Ukraine: the beginning of a wider war?, Prof Graeme Gill, Pearls and Irritations, 2022-02-10
The Crisis in Ukraine Is Not About Ukraine. It's About Germany, Mike Whitney, Unz Review, 2022-02-11
America’s Real Adversaries Are Its European and Other Allies, Michael Hudson, Unz Review, 2022-02-07
Sources on Syria
Here are a collection of names (and a term), with relevant areas of expertise which the author has found informative on gaining a better understanding of the Syrian Proxy War.
Vanessa Beeley, on the ground reporting and the relationship between the White Helments and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, amongst other topics
Eva Bartlett, on the ground reporting
James Corbett, widespread coverage including interviewing both Vanessa and Eva repeatedly when their voices were being suppressed and his own investigations into the relations between the religious extremist insurgents and how they relate all the way back to the CIA funded and organised civil war in Afghanistan from 1979
Seymour Hersh, links the weapons and forces used in Syria to those used in Libya
Prof Theodore Postol, weapons and ballistics analysis especially of the pre-Douma incidents
(former) Prof Robinson and the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, analysis of global media coverage and reporting on the OPCW cover up
(former) Prof Tim Anderson, Political and economic changes and threats in Syria and Syria's relations with the greater Middle East
Operation Timber Sycamore, the name for the CIA project to train and arm Syrian insurgents
There are many more, including a brilliant report by a Bulgarian journalist, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, who identified the crate numbers and delivery documents of weapons found after one of the terrorist groups left an area. She followed through and exposed one of the main covert arms shipment channels of the CIA. Needless to say, she suffered for this.
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