One has to put some context around the appearance of Saint Volodymyr Zelensky Wednesday evening before the U.S. Congress. Those with a modicum of accurate background information could smell a rat behind all the hugs, kisses, and stormy applause. The real record renders the smell a stench. Alas, neither the accurate record nor the stench can find its way into the corporate media.
Here’s the thing – in the words of humorist Will Rogers: “The problem ain’t what people know. It’s what people know that ain’t so; that’s the problem.”
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One can expect serious writers like Joe Lauria of Consortium News to post some thoughts apres-St. Zelensky-tour-de-force, in due course. But everyone is entitled to some time off for Christmas and something needs to be said – like now.
Joe’s piece came in response to spurious charges by a Orwellian ‘rating’ group, led by the usual suspects, called “NewsGuard”. Consider Lauria’s piece required reading; you may find it on the final exam.
For those who prefer video, I gave a kind of kind of tutorial on July 7, 2022, with emphasis on how Russia views the stakes in Ukraine: “Ukraine: A Taste of The Truth”.
I have also done several other videos on the general subject. (See: Youtube or raymcgovern.com.)
Reading the two articles below confirms the truth of Will Rogers’s adage – in present circumstances a dangerous one – that THE problem is “what people know that ain’t so”. You may wish to tell your friends to read/watch Lauria and me (above), as a sort of inoculation against the rubbish below:
A Discussion NOT Run by the “Think Tank” Part of the MICIMATT By Ray McGovern, December 17, 2022
Of particular interest were the remarks of independent journalist Eva Bartlett (min. 14:25 to 22:00) and nuclear scientist Professor Steven Starr (min. 1:13:55 to 1:27:17). See below for a discrete segment of my own (often indiscreet) remarks lasting 23 minutes.
I called attention to a few straws in the wind hinting at Kremlin readiness to negotiate, if Zelensky’s puppeteers grasp those straws before Russian forces take Odesa and block Ukraine’s access to the sea. Pope Francis’s offer of Vatican good offices to facilitate talks, together with the possibility of a Christmas ceasefire, offer what may be the last chance for this kind of deal. Then, “no one kills the children any more”. I string together Madeleine Albright-Victoria Nuland-Barack Obama – Vladimir Putin – Pope Francis – Pius XII – Albert Camus – Roger Waters.
For Europe, its unreflective taking of this American ‘cuckoo’ thinking into its own European nest is nothing short of catastrophic.
Larry Johnson – a long veteran of both the CIA and the State Department – pinpoints the ‘cuckoo’ nestling at the bottom of the ‘nest’ of western thinking about Ukraine. The bird has two closely related parts: the upper layer is the conceptual framework positing that the U.S. faces two distinct spheres of contention: first, U.S. vs Russia, and secondly, U.S. vs China.
The essential mental framework behind this ‘cuckoo’ – just to be plain – is wholly U.S.-centric: It is the view of the world from someone peering out from Washington, tinted by wishful thinking.
It is truly a ‘cuckoo’ (i.e. the malicious insertion of an interloper amongst the legitimate chicks), because these battlescapes are not two, as claimed, but one. How so?
These two conflicts are not distinct, but interconnect through the western refusal to acknowledge that it is Western cultural pretensionsof superiority that are the crux to the unfolding process of today’s geopolitical restructuring.
The purpose of the cuckoo is to erase this pivotal aspect from the conceptual framing, and then to reduce the whole to abstract power politics where Russia and China can be played off – one against the other.
Plainly put, the bifurcation U.S. vs China separate to U.S. vs Russia serves principally to ‘bed-down’ the growing cuckoo.
Professor John Mearsheimer, the high-priest of Realpolitik,articulates today’s geopolitics (as fluently as always) as being one of ‘Godzilla’ hegemons acting according to their nature – liberally throwing their weight about (acting imperially), while others, who fail to get out of these hegemons’ way, end as ‘road kill’.
The Realpolitik view – whilst superficially compelling – is deeply flawed, for it erases the issue at the core of today’s geo-politics. It is absolutely not just three ‘Godzillas’ on the rampage jostling for space: Fundamental to today’s geo-politics is that the Rest-of-World refuses to have the U.S. either speak for it, define its political and financial structures, or accept to have the West’s curious ‘hang up’ with ‘cancel-culture’ imposed on others.
Larry Johnson writes: “U.S. Foreign Service officers take great pride in believing they are super smart. I worked alongside some of these folks for four years and can attest to the arrogance and air of self-importance that imbues the typical FSO as they parade around [the] State Department”.
And here is the key: the super smart thinking emerging from the State Department is that the entirety of the Kremlin’s strategy (in this view) depends on Russia fighting the U.S. by proxy (i.e. in Ukraine) – AND not in direct conflict with themilitarily superior United States and the whole of NATO.
Rah, Rah, Rah! ‘The U.S. has the mightiest military the world has ever known’. Nothing in history ever like it. Whilst Russia and China are poor ‘start-ups’.
Sure – this is a propaganda line. But if you say: we have the biggest, the best, the most advanced military in the history of the world often enough, a majority of the élite can begin to believe it (even if there is a cadre at the top which doesn’t). And if, on top of that, you believe yourself to be ‘super-smart’, it will seep into your thinking and shape it.
Thus, the ‘very smart’ former State Dept officer, Peter van Buren opines in The American Conservative: [that from the outset of the Ukraine operation], “There were only two possible outcomes. Ukraine could reach a diplomatic solution that resets its physical eastern border … and so firmly re-establishes its role as buffer state between NATO and Russia. Or, after battlefield losses and diplomacy, Russia could retreat to its original February starting point” – and Ukraine would re-situate itself between NATO and Russia.
That’s it – just two putative outcomes.
Seen through the rose-tinted lens of a U.S. global military ‘Leviathon’, the two-outcome argument has the appearance of inexorability to it, van Buren writes: “the off ramp in Ukraine – a diplomatic outcome – is clear enough to Washington. The Biden administration seems content, shamefully … to bleed out the Russians as if this was Afghanistan 1980 all over again – all the while looking tough and soaking up whatever positive bipartisan electoral feelings are due for pseudo ‘war time’ President Joe Biden”.
Van Buren, to his credit, takes a hard swipe at the Biden stance; yet his thinking (as much as team Biden’s) is still rooted in the false premise that America is a military colossus, and Russia a stumbling military power.
The flaw here is that whilst the U.S. militarily spends as a colossus – after being raked by DC pork politics and ‘just in time’ set-ups, focussed on selling weapons bling to the Middle East – the final output is both hugely expensive, but inferior, too. Russia’s – not so.
What this means is important: As Larry Johnson notes, there are not just two putative outcomes, but rather, there is a missing third. It is that Russia ultimately, will dictate the terms of the Ukraine outcome. This missing third alternative paradoxically, is also the most likely.
Yes, the U.S. and EU narrative is that Ukraine is winning, but as Colonel Douglas Macgregor, an earlier candidate for U.S. National Security Adviser, notes:
The Biden administration repeatedly commits the unpardonable sin in a democratic society of refusing to tell the American people the truth: Contrary to the Western media’s popular “Ukrainian victory” narrative, which blocks any information that contradicts it, Ukraine is not winning and will not win this war … The coming offensive phase of the conflict will provide a glimpse of the new Russian force that is emerging and its future capabilities … The numbers continue to grow, but the numbers already include 1,000 rocket artillery systems, thousands of tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones, plus 5,000 armoured fighting vehicles, including at least 1,500 tanks, hundreds of manned fixed-wing attack aircraft, helicopters and bombers. This new force has little in common with the Russian army that intervened nine months ago on Feb. 24, 2022.
For Europe, its unreflective taking of this American ‘cuckoo’ thinking into its own European nest is nothing short of catastrophic. Brussels – by extension – has absorbed the false contention that China is distinct from the Russian project. This mental device intentionally forecloses on the necessary understanding that Europe faces a burgeoning resistance from the Russia-China axis, and much of the world, who scorn its pretensions to some higher order superiority.
Secondly, the buy-in to the DC-smart ‘only two alternatives’ framework – ‘because the U.S. is a military behemoth and Russia would never dare anything beyond a proxy war’ – shows up the fat cuckoo in the nest: NATO escalation is relatively risk-free: we have Putin pinned down in Ukraine; HE dare not trigger a full NATO response.
Russia, nonetheless, is preparing to launch an outcome-setting offensive. Then, what of Europe? Did you think that through? No, because that ‘alternative’ did not even appear ‘amongst the framework parameters’.
As a logical consequence, the indeterminate and undefined ‘as long as it takes’ policy, simply binds the EU to ‘forever Russia sanctions’ – leading Europe deeper into economic crisis, with no plan ‘B’. Nor, even a hint of one.
Yet, at another level, almost completely absent from European analysis, (because of its embrace of the flawed analysis that views ‘Russia as a friable military power’) – lies the unaddressed reality: The contention is not between Kiev vs Moscow – it was always between the U.S. vs Russia.
The EU inevitably will be a mere bystander to that discussion. They will not have a seat at the table. That is, if we ever get to that point … before escalation re-sets the parameters.
In short, multiple wrong diagnoses equals the wrong curative treatment.
When Larry Johnson describes his experience of the élite arrogance and air of superiority pervading DC, he could well have been describing the European political class haughtily striding the corridors of Brussels.
The consequences to these pretentions are not trivial, but of a strategic order. The most immediate is that the EU’s fanatical support for Kiev and the public adulation of certain dubious ‘nationalists’ has moved ethnically ‘anti-Russian Ukraine’ further, and further, away from any possibility of serving as a neutral or buffer state. Or, of being a stepping-stone to compromise in the future. Then What?
Think of it from the Russian optic: With sentiment amongst Ukrainians now turning so toxic against everything Russian, this inevitably imposes a different calculus on Moscow.
The fanning by Ukraine activists, within the EU leadership class, of such toxic anti-Russian sentiments amongst nationalist Ukrainians, inevitably has opened a bitter fault line in Ukraine – and not just in Ukraine alone; It is fracturing Europe and creating a strategic fault line between EU vs Rest of World.
President Macron said this week that he sees ‘resentment’ in Russian President Putin’s eyes – “a sort of resentment” directed at the Western world, including the EU and the U.S., and that it is fuelled by “the feeling that our perspective was to destroy Russia”.
He is right. The resentment however is not confined to Russians, who have come to hate Europe, it is rather, that across the globe resentment is bubbling up at all the destroyed lives strewn in the wake of the western hegemonic project. Even a former high-ranking French Ambassador now describes the rules-based order as an unfair “Western order” based on “hegemony”.
Angela Merkel’s interview to Zeit Magazineconfirms for the Rest of World that EU strategic autonomy always was a lie. In the interview, she admits that her advocacy of the 2014 Minsk ceasefire was a deception. It was an attempt to give Kiev time to strengthen its military – and was successful in that regard, she said. “[Ukraine] used this time to get [militarily] stronger, as you can see today. The Ukraine of 2014/15 is not the Ukraine of today”.
Merkel emerges as a self-confessed collaborator in the ‘Smart Think’ of using Ukraine to bleed Russia: “The Cold War never ended because Russia basically was not at peace”, Merkel says. (She clearly had bought into the ‘Mighty NATO – midget Russia’ pretension, peddled by Washington.)
So, as the global tectonic fault line plummets deeper, the Rest of World has it reconfirmed that the EU was full collaborator with the U.S. project – not just to cripple Russia financially, but to have her bleed on the battlefield too. (So much for the EU narrative of ‘unprovoked Russian invasion’!)
This is a familiar ‘playbook’; one that has unfolded amidst huge suffering across the globe. As Eurasia separates from the western sphere, would it be a surprise were the latter to think to ‘wall out’ such European toxicity, together with its hegemonic patron?
Merkel was also refreshingly frank about the quality of German friendship: The Nordstream project was a sop to Moscow at a fraught moment in Ukraine, she said, adding: “It just so happened that Germany couldn’t get gas elsewhere”. (Nothing ‘strategic friendship’ about it then.)
Of course, Merkel was speaking to legacy … but words of truth often slip out, in such legacy ‘moments’.
The EU posits itself as a strategic player; a political power in its own right; a market colossus; a monopsony with the power to impose its will over whomsoever trades with it. In essence: the EU insists that it possesses meaningful political agency.
But Washington has just trampled that narrative. Its ‘friend’, the Biden Administration, is leaving Europe to swing in the wind of de-industrialisation, subsidised by Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, whilst disdain for the EU’s ‘anti-culture’ culture accumulates around the globe (viz: the European antics at the football World Cup in Qatar).
Then what for Europe, (with economic power punctured and soft power disdained)?
What follows is a welcome comment by Benjamin Abelow on a discussion held last Monday (Dec. 5) with Glenn Diesen, Alexander Mercouris, and Ray McGovern. Ben is the author of the recent “How the West Brought War to Ukraine” (see: www.BenjaminAbelow.com ) Abelow’s remarks follow:
AN UNBELIEVABLY GOOD DISCUSSION
This is really one of the very best discussions I’ve heard about the Ukraine war, US-Russia policy, and the like, with three very smart and well-informed persons. It features, especially, Ray McGovern, but the other two have brilliant things to say as well.
Briefly, McGovern (aside from having a wonderfully dry sense of humor) is a 27-year CIA veteran, now retired. He ran the Russia desk in the CIA’s analytic (information gathering and analysis) wing (as opposed to their “operations” wing), and was personal briefer to the president during Reagan’s presidency. On his retirement, he was awarded the CIA’s Intelligence Commendation medal, which he returned in protest over the CIA’s use of torture. In 2003 he co-founded VIPS — Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity — to warn the U.S. president that the intelligence he was receiving on Iraq was fraudulent, though his warnings were not heeded and Iraq was invaded on false pretexts. Among the members of VIPS is William Binney, who served at the NSA as a senior technical director.
The first part of the discussion provides a thorough debunking of Russiagate. In that context, let me say to my progressive friends that McGovern himself is a liberal and has stated that he considers Donald Trump to have been a horrifically bad president. That said, I highly recommend to everyone (regardless of political affiliation) that you listen to the first 15 minutes. But then the interview / discussion moves on to other topics — also brilliantly. This discussion is so good that it really could take the place of a Saturday-night movie on Netflix.
Even if you hate consuming content in video or audio, the first 15 minutes are really special:
You can also find this as a regular audio interview on your mobile device at “The Duran” podcast program — which is a great source of analysis in general. [End of Abelow remarks.]
Those who view Russia as an inherently aggressive, imperialist state insist that Russia must be defeated and made to recognise the error of its ways
There have been many times over the past 10 months when it has seemed an almost indecent luxury to turn away from the harrowing realities of the Ukraine war to contemplate some of the wider questions thrown up by the conflict. The rights and wrongs are so clear: Russia mounted a military invasion of a sovereign country in an attempt to bend it forcibly to its will. It has broken every rule of the international order; it is the aggressor. What more is there to say?
Quite a lot, I would submit. For while there is general agreement about what has happened, and how, there are two quite different, even opposite, views about why.
The first is the view that has dominated what might be called the Western political and media mainstream since the Russians invaded Ukraine on 24 February this year. According to this, the war is a war of aggression. Russia is by its very nature an imperialist power, and its objective is to restore if not the Soviet Union, then the Russia empire. Some pin the blame primarily on Putin, saying the invasion was born of his obsessional belief that Ukraine has always been, and should remain, a (subordinate) part of Russia. Others say it is less about the leader than the country.
But the conclusions drawn are the same. First, there can be no sensible dealings with Russia until either Putin falls or Moscow “changes its behaviour”. And, second, the countries of East and central Europe have been vindicated: they were right to see Russia as a threat, and they were right in their determination to join Nato to protect themselves. Had Ukraine been afforded similar protection, this war might not have happened.
The other view is almost the mirror image, but it has been heard far less than the first. According to this, Russia’s war on Ukraine is at its root defensive and was launched against what Moscow saw as a growing – and mortal – threat to its security. Russia felt weakened after the 1991 Soviet collapse. It had stood by through the 1990s and early 2000s, as the former Warsaw Pact countries and the Baltic states joined the Western alliance. But now Ukraine was being groomed by the US (and the UK) to the point where it was de facto, if not – yet – de jure, a Nato member, too.
Over the years, Russia had pleaded for some overall European security arrangements, only to be ignored or rebuffed (most recently in December 2021). The next stage could only be US heavy weapons stationed in Ukraine and Nato poised for an attack either on Russia or on its “regime”. Fearful for its own security, Russia judged it had to pounce before intent became fact.
This second view, which sees actions by the West as a major, even decisive, factor pushing Russia to war has recently found expression in a concise and elegant little book – scarcely more than a pamphlet, in fact – with the title How the West Brought War to Ukraine (Siland Press, 2022). Written by Benjamin Abelow, an American with a medical and research background who used to work in Washington on nuclear arms issues, it seems to have struck a chord, especially in those parts of Europe where public debate on the origins of this war has been minimal, to say the least.
What Abelow does, in a succinct 70 pages, is set the war in its wider historical context, enumerate the actions on the Western side that preceded Russia’s invasion, and explain how they might have been seen in Moscow. He also highlights the early alarms sounded by US statesmen to the effect that the advance of Nato to Russia’s borders could lead to war – not, note, to heightened tensions, but to actual war.
They included Henry Kissinger; the late diplomat and Russia-watcher George Kennan; Jack Matlock, who served as US ambassador in Moscow as the Soviet Union collapsed; and – interestingly – another former US ambassador in Moscow, now director of the CIA, William Burns, who is one of very few US officials to have met his Russian opposite number since the start of the war. This is hardly a lightweight line-up. But their advice was spurned – in part, it seems, because of a consensus that any Russian reaction could be deterred.
Abelow looks at what he calls “Western provocations”, which include post-Cold War triumphalism, the green light for former East bloc states to join Nato despite what Russia understood to have been promises to the contrary, the 2014 ousting of Ukraine’s democratically elected president – which Russia saw as a US-inspired coup – and the ways the West subsequently drew Ukraine into the Western bloc, with the EU association agreement and Nato military assistance, even as it abrogated Cold War arms control treaties one after one, or allowed them to lapse.
In one chapter, Abelow turns the tables and looks hypothetically at how the US might have responded – in the light of its still sacrosanct Monroe doctrine – to equivalent activity by Moscow in the vicinity of the United States. Lastly, he considers how, if the West had made different decisions at key stages, the war in Ukraine could have been avoided. And he squares the circle.
Both constituencies can claim vindication from what has happened. Those who always saw Russia as a threat can say the invasion proves them right, while those who see the invasion as primarily defensive can hold the eastward advance of Nato to blame. And so the argument goes on.
Except that, since the early days of the war, when there seemed a genuine desire among Western policy-makers and the media to understand why it had happened, an argument has hardly been had. Indeed, I would go further. The argument set out by Abelow, which is largely my view, too, has been effectively relegated to the margins by the powers that be on both sides of the Atlantic. Its proponents have been deprived of platforms, dismissed as deluded and slurred as Kremlin apologists, even traitors.
At which point, you might ask whether it really matters that there are quite contrary views of Russia’s action. Surely, the imperative now is to help Ukraine to survive as an independent state. But it does matter because without understanding why Russia invaded, there can be no understanding of what will be needed for a lasting peace.
Those who view Russia as an inherently aggressive, imperialist state insist that Russia must be defeated and made to recognise the error of its ways. Otherwise, the whole of Europe, starting with the Baltic states and Poland will be at risk. Their parallels are with Nazi Germany and the Second World War, which is how those who have advocated peace talks (myself included) come to be branded “appeasers”.
If, on the other hand, you take the view that the war reflects Russia’s fears of its own weakness vis a vis the West and the loss of its last buffer as Nato moves east – weakness, incidentally, amply demonstrated on the battlefield – then the conclusion to be drawn is quite different. You will argue that demanding total defeat or regime change in Moscow (as some US officials have done) will end nothing, and only scare Russia into becoming more dangerous. Indeed, you might add that the belligerent warnings issued by the West late last year in the name of deterrence actually had the reverse effect.
Some will say that even voicing such an argument amounts to selling out Ukraine. But the contrary is true. The survival of Ukraine as a sovereign independent state is what we all want. But there is no point in the West underwriting Ukraine’s survival – which is what the US, Nato and the EU are necessarily committed to from now on – without acknowledging Russia’s need for security, too.
Only when Russia feels safe within its post-Soviet borders will its neighbours also be secure within theirs. What is required to that end are new security arrangements for the whole of Europe, probably underpinned by that old staple of arms control. Until then, there can be no lasting peace in Europe, and the threat of new conflicts, even nuclear conflicts, will persist.
Mary Dejevsky is an Independent columnist on foreign affairs, having previously been the title’s foreign correspondent in Moscow, Paris and Washington. She has written about the collapse of communism from inside Moscow, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Iraq War and is a key authority on Russian politics, and on diplomatic relations between the Kremlin and the west.