by Dmitry Orlov
Club Orlov (June 16 2014)
The US has been quite busy this century trying to undo itself as a world power. This was slow going in the beginning – after all, mighty empires don’t tend to fail overnight – but after a decade of assiduous effort the pace has started picking up speed. Like most collapses, the fiascos the US has been creating proceed slowly at first, then all at once.
Take the 2008 “war” in former Soviet Georgia. The Pentagon spent years trying to form Georgia into an anti-Russian, US-dominated puppet. Then, during the Olympic games in Seoul, the US-educated president of Georgia decided to please his masters by initiating artillery bombardment of civilians in a disputed enclave in Georgia inhabited by Russian citizens. In response, the Russians rolled into Georgia, mopped it up, annexed the disputed territory (plus another one) and left. Western media dutifully whitewashed Georgian war crimes and did their best to paint Russia as the aggressor. But his masters were not pleased, and its US-educated president was left to twist in the wind as a political corpse.
A similar fiasco started unfolding in Ukraine in the spring of 2014. You see, the US foreign policy and military establishments are quite compulsive in their unceasing efforts to undermine Russia. The one-percenters who own the US government also have a personal vendetta gainst Putin. They can’t forgive him for what he did to Russia’s oligarchs who did so much to undermine Russia under Yeltsin: he de-fanged and de-clawed them, banning them from politics and depriving them of political influence. During the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the democratically elected president of Ukraine was overthrown in a coup supported by a false flag operation in which mercenary snipers killed scores of civilians and policemen. In his place the US installed a hand-picked junta that included some neo-Nazi elements. This fiasco is still unfolding; I will return to it in a moment.
Another fiasco that is still brewing is the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan. This is likely to be the end result of the longest US military occupation ever, which cost two trillion dollars, and resulted in a few thousand dead and tens of thousands wounded. The US blundered into Afghanistan looking for Osama bin Laden, who, it later turned out, was quietly living next to an army base in Pakistan. Oops, wrong country! Speaking of Pakistan, as a bonus point, the US has managed to destabilize this nuclear-armed nation, as the recent attack on the airport in Karachi has shown. Two fiascos for the price of one!
The foreign policy fiascos in Ukraine and Afghanistan are not quite at the “all at once” stage. But last week we were treated to a rare spectacle: two trillion dollars of US investment in the Iraqi nation-building experiment, including four thousand dead and fifty thousand wounded US soldiers went up in smoke. A group called ISIS, which is far too radical for Al Qaeda, has emerged out of Syria and has swiftly slaughtered its way across northern Iraq and is now knocking on the gates of Baghdad. In response, members of the US-trained, US-equipped Iraqi police and military have been taking off their uniforms, abandoning their weapons and fleeing. Internally displaced persons in northern Iraq now number in the millions. The fiasco in Iraq works synergistically with the fiasco in Syria, where a long-running US attempt at regime change has produced a civil war that has allowed ISIS to organize and arm itself. The end result may turn out to be a rabidly anti-American caliphate spanning much of what was formerly known as Syria and Iraq, and a southern Iraq dominated by Iran: success indeed!
In the meantime, the US attempt to stage-manage Ukraine has been going so well that there is pretty much a full Western media blackout on what’s happening there. This is not the case in Russia: in spite of fully accredited Russian journalists being harassed and kidnapped by pro-government people, Russian media is filled with detailed coverage of Ukrainian neo-Fascist marches, death squads and atrocities. Just last night the Ukrainians shelled a maternity ward, killing a midwife. This makes the Russians very, very angry – not so much at the Ukrainians, mind you, or even the Ukrainian troops, who are, you guessed it, taking off their uniforms and abandoning their weapons every chance they get. No, the Russians are angry at the American puppet-masters behind the mess.
The Russians also seem to understand full well that they are being provoked with the idea of drawing Russia into an armed conflict. Here is a short list of American provocations against Russia (a big thank-you to Saker for putting this together):
* Recognition of an illegal regime which came to power through violence
* Supporting a neo-Nazi regime on Russia’s border
* Massive anti-Russian propaganda in Western (oligarch-owned) media
* Kidnapping of fully accredited Russian journalists
* Whitewashing of massacres of civilians in Odessa and Mariupol
* Illegal use of prohibited cluster bombs and white phosphorus munitions on civilians
* Artillery bombardment of entire towns
* Attack on the Russian embassy in Kiev
* Blocking of UN Security Council resolution condemning the attack on the Russian embassy in Kiev
* Car-bombing of public officials in eastern Ukraine
* (Unsuccessful) attempts at imposing sanctions on Russia
* Covert importation into Ukraine of planes and helicopters from NATO countries to be deployed against civilians
* Covert use of several hundred Western mercenaries from Academi (former Blackwater)
* Massacres of wounded soldiers in hospitals
* Systematic violations of all agreements reached with the participation of Russia
* Bombing of churches and hospitals (this has started happening in the last 24 hours)
* Refusal to provide escape corridors for trapped civilians
These are just some of the things you are unlikely to hear about if you live in the West. What you are likely to hear instead is that Putin invaded Crimea. He didn’t; the Russian troops were in Crimea the entire time, based on a long-standing international agreement, and Russian troop levels never exceeded agreed-upon levels. You are also likely to hear that Putin forcibly annexed Crimea. He didn’t; the people of Crimea overwhelmingly voted to annul the Soviet decision to lump them into Ukraine and rejoined Russia of their own free will. But Crimea now [is] part of Russia, peaceful and prosperous, and taking in Russian refugees that are streaming in from across the Ukrainian border, and the new mantra repeated endlessly by Western media is that Ukrainian forces (the good guys) are battling “pro-Russian separatists” (the bad guys) who are causing chaos in the east of the country. First of all, they are not “pro-Russian” – they are Russian, no different from the ones right across the border in Russia. Second, they are not “separatists”, they want to rejoin Russia, undoing the Soviet-era decision to lump their bit of Russia into Ukraine.
So how are these valiant defenders of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity doing? The pro-Ukrainian separatists are more or less able to hold onto one airport and one hill near Slaviansk and Kramatorsk. They have taken Krasny Liman, and committed a massacre in the hospital there. And they apparently have about a thousand troops surrounded in the Lugansk airport. They sent an IL-76 (world’s largest transport plane) to rescue and resupply them, but it got shot down. This is not for lack of trying. The Ukrainians started their Nazi-inspired reign of terror with baseball bats, then moved on to knives, then guns, assault rifles, machine guns, mortars, artillery, multiple rocket launchers, attack helicopters, attack aircraft, cluster munitions, and now even white phosphorus.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers have defected to the other side – with their weapons, including APCs and tanks. A huge number of their conscripts have been killed. Some of their remaining units are surrounded, and there are all the signs of a desperate attempt to break through to them, even though some of them have already switched sides.
As for the Russian self-defense forces, they seem to be doing better and better. They have a good air-defense network up and running, and may soon be in a position to impose a no-fly zone. They are quite well-armed, mostly with trophy weapons taken from the Ukrainians. The initial trickle of volunteers is now a steady stream, and includes plenty of volunteers streaming in across the porous Russian border (remember, these are Russians, on both sides of it). They also have some new, fancy toys that definitely came from Russia, such as electronic warfare and advanced air defense systems. And with all of that they are starting to engage in offensive operations against the Ukrainian military.
So much for Ukraine as a success story. But never mind Ukraine, because this is all run from Washington, and Washington doesn’t care about Ukraine – it only cares about creating problems for Russia. So far, there really isn’t much success to report here as well. The sanctions prompted Russians to sell off their dollar holdings and repatriate their money from US banks. The effort to free the Russian economy from the dollar system has picked up speed, and Gazprom has announced that it will no longer be selling its natural gas for dollars. The Russian stock market has done much better since the sanctions were imposed. Putin’s approval rating is over eighty percent (while Obama’s is at a record low). The obvious double standards and dirty dealing by the EU and the US has turned the Russian population away from Europe and toward the east, putting the Eurasian integration project into high gear. (What does that mean for the US? Well, the US isn’t in Eurasia, now, is it? It has plenty of military bases in Eurasia, but if you want to know how useful they are, see above.) So far, the effort to use Ukraine to create problems for Russia has backfired grandly: Russia cherry-picked the best bit of (former) Ukraine – Crimea – and now has the political impetus to free itself of US and Western influence. The need to resettle Russian refugees streaming in from Ukraine gives Russian officials something to do. Yes, the news of Ukrainian atrocities and death squads tends to radicalize the Russian population, and the government has to appear to be doing something about the problem, but then the news of Russian volunteers organizing and scoring victories makes this less of a problem.
And so, time is definitely on Russia’s side. The Russian military doesn’t need to respond to American provocations by invading Ukraine: the volunteer self-defense forces are taking care of themselves quite well. In the meantime, Ukraine remains a bankrupt, disintegrating non-state. Russia used to outsource quite a bit of industrial production to eastern Ukraine, but not any more, while the west of Ukraine (the part where some people actually speak Ukrainian) is mainly agricultural, and with all of the disruptions of recent months this year’s grain harvest promises to be a disaster.
Add to this the imbroglio over natural gas. Europe gets a third of its natural gas from Russia, and half of it flows through Ukraine. Some time ago, Americans came up with a truly delirious plan to take over supplying Europe with natural gas, pushing out Russia. Never mind that building the required liquified natural gas terminals and tankers would have taken years. Never mind that this gas would cost twice as much as Russian gas. The key point is the required gas does not exist. The US is a net natural gas importer, and its conventional gas production is in terminal decline. What previously allowed the US to make outrageous statements about its future gas production was the idea that its shale gas would be sufficiently bountiful to take on Gazprom. But then shale gas reserves in the US got downgraded by 96%. End of story. But in the meantime, US officials have been pushing to make it harder for Russia to supply Europe. Russia has been working diligently on a new pipeline network, called South Stream, which bypasses Ukraine, but American officials forced Bulgaria to halt construction of its segment because the company doing the construction is Russian, and was unilaterally sanctioned by Washington. They have also instructed their Ukrainian puppets to refuse to reach an agreement with Gazprom. Gazprom has asked Ukraine to settle its debt for the gas it has already burned (a not unreasonable request) and to start making payments in advance. It also offered Ukraine the same price for gas paid by other European customers. The Ukrainians refused, and so the spigot was turned off this morning. The gas transiting Ukraine on its way west is still flowing, but at this rate it is a matter of months before the Europeans will have to start sacrificing some of it just to keep the lights on in Kiev. Keep in mind, Ukraine has some Chernobyl-style nuclear reactors that are still operating, and require a functioning electric grid to avoid meltdown if they shut down – which they very well might if there is a war going on.
As we all know, it is difficult to make predictions (especially if they are about the future) but it seems safe to already place Ukraine among the other US foreign policy fiascos. It is at this time still a slow-moving fiasco, but we should expect it to pick up pace. We should also expect it to get bigger: come next winter, if Kiev is dark and much of Europe is shivering in the cold, and Ukrainian nuclear reactors are on the verge of meltdown, the Europeans may start thinking that perhaps Americans are not their friends at all, that NATO membership is a bad idea, and that America’s sycophants in Brussels should be given the boot along with the EU and the Euro. And this would make the spring of 2015 very interesting.