Disaster Capitalism and the War in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine is a tragedy. Few can fail to be unmoved by the daily accounts of suffering. Equally it is clear that war crimes have been committed. But what a reading of recent Postil articles reveals is that this was could and should have been avoided. If Jaques Baud is right (Postil April 11 and May 1, 2022) then this conflict makes no sense whatsoever. It seems that the USA, the UK and France, after having successfully sabotaged the Minsk agreement, are now fighting a proxy war with Russia. They encouraged Ukraine to poke the Russian Bear. Putin had been reluctant to rise to the bait but eventually felt he had no choice but to intervene.

To some scholars of USA Foreign policy, the current war is part of a global strategy to establish unchallenged world-wide dominance. Some 20 highly-credentialed analysts contributed to Lendman, S. 2014 book, Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US drive for hegemony risks World War III. They argue that Obama’s pivot was global, in pursuit of unchallenged worldwide dominance, leading to multiple direct and proxy wars. Neocon-dominated Washington seeks to marginalize its Russian and Chinese rivals, surrounding both countries with US bases. Ukraine is in the eye of the storm, the crown jewel of NATO eastward expansion, the last step in Washington’s drive to incorporate all former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact countries into NATO and install missile defense sites on Russia’s very border. We should not lose sight of the fact that Joe Biden was not just Obama’s vice-president—he had an active hand in the shaping of US foreign policy during Obama’s presidency. It seems that he is picking up where Obama had left off. Yet I cannot help but ask “who benefits from this war?”

There does not seem to be much of a benefit for Western Europe and indeed the rest of the world as the conflict threatens global shortages in food supply. Europe still relies heavily on Russian oil and gas and that too is now placed at risk; if the conflict is not resolved in time, it can create domestic tensions as the price of energy rises. The price that Europe will be paying will be in the form of very expensive energy and food shortages—it may be bearable during the Northern Summer but winter could be a different story. It seems that this is a risky venture in which no-one benefits.

However, let us consider three factors: the military industrial complex, the global energy shortage, and disaster capitalism. Our understanding of all three will enable us to make some sense of the Ukrainian conflict.

The Military-Industrial Complex

World War I introduced the world to a total, global tragedy. The belligerents made full use of their global resources. Neutral countries helped to maintain the industrial violence by shifting to the industrialized production of munitions, food and other supplies. War had become a profitable business.

The First World War may be regarded as the origins of the military-industrial complex. Free trade had been the cornerstone of liberal democracies—the war changed that. Governments now placed restrictions with whom one could trade. In the past such restrictions had been imposed to protect local industry; now they were imposed to protect the nation. However, the war also changed one other important element. In times of war, governments relied on securing their resources from either their domestic suppliers or from neutral or friendly foreign suppliers. Government contracts are lucrative. Little wonder that by1961 President Eisenhower saw fit to warn: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

The military-industrial complex relied on governments to do two things: firstly, lubricate the wheels of international diplomacy to gain access to foreign markets, and secondly have a willingness to place the nation on a permanent war-footing.

In the current conflict, the three nations that have been most active in providing support for the Ukrainians have been the USA, UK and France—these three nations are responsible for 57%, 9% and 5.3% of global arms sales. Thus, the $33 billion that President Biden is providing to the Ukraine is effectively a grant to the USA manufacturers. This underlines that these three nations are not disinterested parties in this conflict—the funds promised to Ukraine for weapons will be spent domestically. It also means that by presenting this war as a fight for democracy there will be very little criticism of this expenditure.

Eisenhower’s concerns were well founded. The military-industrial complex has become a significant part of the USA economy; but whilst a substantial player it is not in the top 15 manufacturing companies. However, that can be misleading. Table 1 below shows that some of the top 15 manufacturing companies also have interest in war. Car and electronic component manufacturers would be interested in tendering for a range of government contracts. All these companies will be lobbying government to ensure that the political climate remains conducive for their businesses.

The fact that so many global corporations stand to benefit from government spending on the war effort means that those corporations will have a vested interest in ensuring that the West does not falter in its prosecution of the war. If we add to this the anti-Chinese policy, we can see that the West is being softened up to see Russia and China as two enemies who must be stopped at all costs.

In that context, simply note the double standards that apply to human rights violations. Russia and China are portrayed in the media as being despotic and anti-democratic. Much is made of the way religious minorities are treated. The challenge for any commentator is to contradict that narrative, for there is much that is reprehensible about the way people are treated in China and Russia. But—we have to ask why do we hear so little about the internal politics of countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Hungary or Poland? The same countries who are welcoming Ukrainian refugees with open arms have been less than welcoming to refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, or Burma. One cannot help but feel that the confected moral outrage will be limited to actions by nations that do not support Washington’s crusade.

Global Energy Shortage

In 1972, the Club of Rome Report, The Limits to Growth, posited that the world was heading for a global energy shortage. At the time, it was dismissed as another Malthusian chimera. However, in 2009, Turner published, A comparison of the limits of growth with thirty years of reality. Given the complexity of the Report, it is rare for its forecast to yield such uncompromising confirmation. The Report had predicted that the world was heading for a global collapse by the second decade of the 21st century.

Meanwhile, Kjell Aleklett in another peer-reviewed work demonstrated that the world had reached the state of peak oil. This basically means that the cost of extracting various oil and natural gas was becoming less and less profitable—we would need to become accustomed to a world of energy shortages. The global corporations had grown and expanded on the back of plentiful and comparatively cost-effective energy.

For a time, Covid had hidden the advent of peak energy. The conflict in the Ukraine provides the world with another means of disguising the reality. The countries which are the most reliant on plentiful cheap energy are also the ones who are engaged in what could reasonably be referred to as a crusade against Russia. Thus, all energy shortages may be sheeted home to Russia; there can be no question that it is due to the failure of the various Western governments to protect their people from the energy crisis.

But that is not all. The USA and the West have not abandoned their Cold War rhetoric—Putin has been a road block to the Americans. The incessant speculation that the war will hasten the end of the Putin era is a mixture of wistful thinking and propaganda. The removal of Putin could open up the vast resources of Russia to the West.

Disaster Capitalism

In his book, Capital and Ideology, Piketty argues that “every human society must justify its inequalities: unless reasons for them are found, the whole political and social edifice stands in danger of collapse.” Piketty justifies this proposition by referring to the long-term history of the ways in which regimes in different polities established what he refers to as the “inequality regime” which comprises “A set of discourses and institutional arrangements intended to justify and structure the economic, social, and political inequality of a given society” (p. 2). The justifications for inequality are not open ended—“what determines the level of inequality is above all society’s ideological, political, and institutional capacity to justify and structure inequality” (p. 267). The levels of inequality generated by neo-liberal policies have thus far been justified on the grounds “that a rising tide raises all boats.” However, that claim is sounding increasingly hollow.

Nevertheless, what Piketty’s work has also demonstrated is that contemporary neo-liberalism seems to be an ideology free zone. Between 1980 and 2018, the share of the top decile (the 10% highest incomes) in total national income, ranged between 26% and 34% in 1980 in the different parts of the world, and from 34% and 56% in 2018. From his data it seemed immaterial where one lived. A democracy like India showed the sharpest growth, closely followed by the USA, Russia and China. (See, Piketty’s website)

The reason there is a global trend towards inequality may be attributed to the influence of Milton Friedman from the Chicago School of Economics. Friedman won the 1976 Nobel Prize in economics for what was referred to at the time as monetarism but is today better characterised as neoliberalism. It was this theory that guided the policies of the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank. Their policies were focused on increasing the richness of the economy rather than on enhancing the richness of human life. The argument was summed up by President Clinton who argued that human well being was dependent on the economy—”it is the economy stupid” that should guide public policy.

For those who advocate adherence to a neo-liberal economic narrative, the real problem has been that governments are concerned about the public backlash of promoting policies that seek to fully implement a neo-liberal economic agenda. However, disaster capitalism presents governments with a solution. Disaster presents an opportunity to implement policies that would, under normal circumstances, be resisted. Milton Friedman opined: “Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.” If the ideas of the Chicago School of Economics are the only ones lying about, then they will be readily embraced, for they seem to offer a well thought out constructive way to respond to the crisis. Disaster capitalism was the solution in response to the impact of Hurricane Katrina. The tragedy is that the solution served to create what Adams has referred to as Chronic Disaster Syndrome—where alienation becomes a way of life:

New Orleans points not to the failure of a particular set of policies but, rather, to the success of these policies in achieving other goals pertaining to the growth of the private sector and debilitation of the public sector, the erasure and eradication of the poor, and the rendering invisible of the true recovery needs of communities post disaster. In the wake of such successes, we witness the trauma of lost lives, families, and cities. (Adams, V., T. Van Hattum, and D. English, “Chronic disaster syndrome: Displacement, disaster capitalism, and the eviction of the poor from New Orleans”)

It may seem a callous approach, but for the supporters of a neo-liberal democracy, disasters provide the opportunity to implement the economic objectives that will supposedly lead to a better world. In his article for the Postil Dugin states that Fukuyama claims that: “The United Nations Security Council has proven once again to be useless. The only helpful thing was the General Assembly vote, which helps to identify the world’s bad or prevaricating actors.”

In this thesis, Fukuyama is referring to the need to dissolve the UN and create in its place the League of Democracies; that is, fully subordinate to Washington, states that are willing to live under the illusion of “the end of history.”

It is tempting to dismiss this as yet another conspiracy theory; but there is no need for an elaborate conspiracy theory. Instead, we need to see it as the logical outcome of a chain of reasoning that assumes that in order to enjoy the full benefits of living in a liberal democracy, everything must be subordinated to the creation of a free market economy. The argument is based on Adam Smith’s idea that in a free-market economy there is an invisible hand that ensures that the best interests of society as a whole are fulfilled. Individual self-interest and freedom of production and consumption will ensure that the best of all possible worlds is created. With the end of the cold war, it was assumed that a new era would be ushered in: an era where globalization under the auspices of the USA would see an end to national sovereignty—the world would become a collection of free markets.

So, Who Benefits?

The problem is of course that the utopian vision of a global collection of free markets, markets guided not by government but by the invisible hand of what was regarded as enlightened self-interest, has not eventuated. There are several reasons for this. The end of the Cold War has not been the end of history. The end of the Cold War represented an opportunity for the revival of nationalism—not only for countries which were part of the Soviet bloc, but also for the national minorities within Russia itself. Secondly, whilst the rhetoric of democracy became widely accepted, the way it was interpreted depended very much on the culture and history of the various countries. It is fair to say that it did not herald a global commitment to human rights, or political transparency. Furthermore, one can discern strategic manoeuvring, as the various major powers attempted to ensure that the outcome of elections corresponded with their interests. Much of the pre-history of Ukraine needs to be viewed through this spectrum.

Ukraine is of strategic interest both to the West and Russia. Russia has always had to face the problem that for much of the year it was icebound; Ukraine gives it access to the Mediterranean. A Ukraine that is sympathetic to the West is a major strategic problem. Little wonder that the post-Cold War history of the Ukraine has been one of interference in its democratic processes.

For the West, the Ukraine presents an opportunity to encircle Russia, giving it extra leverage as it seeks to control Russia’s resources. Furthermore, in encouraging and facilitating the war in Ukraine, it provides a boost for the sale of US, UK and French armaments.

It is here that we see disaster capitalism at work. The narrative of Ukraine being the unprovoked victim of naked Russian aggression has ensured that there are virtually no voices raised in opposition to the way the West has behaved in the conflict. The war has been reduced to a war against evil; I have lost count of the number of attempts to frame this in terms of Hitler’s road to war.

The war plays into another narrative that supports the cause of neo-liberalism. Although governments remain largely committed to neo-liberalism, some economists have sought to develop alternative narratives. Thus, we find that Raworth has developed an alternative economic model—so-called “doughnut economics”—her argument is to show that there is an ecological ceiling that we cannot afford to overshoot.

In a similar vein, Trebeck and Williams make a compelling case that the unrelenting pursuit of growth poses a great risk both to our own well-being and that of the planet. They propose an alternative economic narrative—that of arrival—their idea is that as the benefits of continued growth are experienced by fewer and fewer people, we should be aiming for a fair distribution that will enable us to all live well. Furthermore, in central Europe a group of thinkers have established what they refer to as Common Good Economics; like the models of the other economists, it represents a departure from the neo-classical paradigm and offers the hope for an alternative way forward.

The Nobel prize-winning economist Stiglitz has undermined another aspect to the dominant economic narrative. He argues that the economy is our creation, that there is no “invisible” hand that guides the free market; economic systems are our creation and hence we can change them at will. In a world where most people in democracies are concerned about climate change these systems offer a credible alternative.

This also provides the most important benefit of the war. The war means that Russia and Ukraine, the two biggest producers of wheat, will struggle to provide the world with food. In that event the world will be facing an unprecedented disaster. But we also know that there is enough food to feed the world—it will be a matter of distribution. The global disaster will create the conditions that will facilitate the implementation of these policies that foster the growth of the private sector and debilitation of the public sector.

Has this all been thought out to this extent? Of course not. All that we can say with some degree of certainty that the decision to encourage the war in Ukraine is based on a belief that Russia and Putin are evil and must be stopped. The reason that they must be stopped is that they are a roadblock to the full development of a global neo-liberal ideology. To quote Alexander Dugin:

But the proponents of the end of history have not been complacent. They are so enmeshed in their fanatical models of globalization and liberalism that they do not recognize any other future. And so, they began to increasingly insist on a virtual end to history. As in… if it’s not real, let’s make it look like it is. In essence, the policy of controlling consciousness, through global information resources, network technology, the promotion of new gadgets, and the development of models for merging people with machines, has been bet on. This is the “Great Reset” proclaimed by the creator of the Davos Forum, Klaus Schwab, and adopted by the U.S. Democratic Party and Joe Biden. The essence of this policy is as follows: while the globalists do not control reality, they completely dominate virtuality. They own all the basic networking technologies, protocols, servers, etc. Therefore, based on a global electronic hallucination and total control over the consciousness, they began to create an image of the world in which history had already ended. It was an image. Nothing more. But the tail seriously decided to wag the dog.

This view is consistent with Rawls’s critique of neo-liberalism who argued that the problem is that neoliberalism is undemocratic in that it allows “very large inequalities in the ownership of real property…so that control of the economy and much of political life rests in a few hands” (Justice as Fairness, p. 138). Rawls was concerned that neo-liberalism diluted the capacity of citizens to retain control over the levers of economic and political management.

The reality is that we, the Ukrainians, and the Russians are pawns in a game of global chess that is being prosecuted on behalf of that 10% of the global population whose lives will remain largely untouched by the war. The millions of refugees, the food shortages and energy shortages, the people who will die of hunger—these will be the victims of a conflict that is being prosecuted to gain control of increasingly scarce resources. Already Russia and the West are promoting a narrative that seeks to blame these miseries on the protagonists. For the West it will be Putin who is responsible and in Russia it will be the USA and Europe. As flies to wanton boys are we to the superpowers, they but kill us for their sport.


John Tons is Professor at Flinders University (Australia) and specializes in Rawlsian theory. His recent book is John Rawls and Environmental Justice.


Featured image: “View in Perspective of a Perfect Sunset,” by Eugène Berman; painted in 1941.

A Difficult Restart for a Failed State

On May 3, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the UN Security Council, the US State Department and the European High Representative Josep Borrell issued harsh statements condemning an attack by the Islamist Al-Shabab militias on an advanced base in Elbaraf, in the Middle Shabelle region, held by Burundian troops, of ATMIS, the recently activated stabilization operation of the African Union, established at the end of the mandate of AMISOM.

There are conflicting reports of the attack. Officially, there were about ten killed among the “green helmets.” Other sources report instead of almost two hundred killed and that the base was briefly occupied by Islamist militiamen, who after having sacked and burned it, abandoned the position.
The gravity of the incident was however confirmed by the fact that the President of the Commission of the African Union (former Chadian foreign minister Mussa Faki) also broke silence by condemning the incident. Although AMISOM (like ATMIS) is, albeit in a politically ambiguous way, an articulation of the Union, a declaration from Addis Ababa reveals the gravity of the moment (especially considering that the regional organization has always been very sparing regarding public statements about Somalia, which is considered the most difficult area for the organization).

The attack on the base, in central Somalia, part of the Al-Shabab, was a grave signal to the AU, but also to the UN (whose Security Council Resolution 2628 of 31 March 2022 sanctioned the end of AMISOM and the activation of ATMIS), and to the EU, which has several operations on site, such as EUTM-Somalia (which has been operating since 2010 and in which military instructors from Italy, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Romania, UK and Serbia take part), the EU CAP-Somalia (which has been operating since 2013), and the EUNAVFOR “Atalanta” (activated in 2008). It also means that the change of name means nothing and the Islamicists will continue to strike.

ATMIS (African [Union] Transition Mission in Somalia) replaced AMISOM (African [Union] Mission in Somalia) on 1 April, in line with a decision by the AU Peace and Security Council. The new mission has the mandate to support the Somali government in the implementation of the Transition Plan and in the transfer of greater responsibilities to the Somali armed forces and police. The activation of ATMIS was scheduled for December 2021 but disagreements with the Somali authorities delayed it and an agreement was finally reached on what appears to be more only a change of name and an extension of the existing mandate. ATMIS will operate until the end of 2024, after which all responsibilities will be transferred to the Somali security forces.

The ATMIS “capacity” of approximately 18,000 soldiers, 1,000 policemen (from Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Djibouti, Burundi, Uganda, Sierra Leone) and a hundred civilian staffers (all diplomats seconded from their respective nations and based in Nairobi) seems a mirror of its predecessor, as well as a large part of its mandate. The work of AMISOM, which began in March 2007, was focused on degrading the military capacity of Al-Shabab and strengthening the capacity of the Somali army and police, so that the mission could eventually withdraw as soon as possible. This happened only in part; the pan-African forces engaged in violent clashes with the Islamist militias, suffering heavy losses (some sources refer to up to 3,000 KIA), and even carried out an amphibious assault in 2012 in Chisimaio.

The mandate of the “green helmets” has been renewed several times and came to a difficult end in 2021. However, the exit did not happen, as the security threats that necessitated the arrival of pan-African soldiers continue to exist and Somalia continues to face three emergencies: security, governance, and development. These emergencies continue to grip the country and AMISOM, which was supposed to be the first response to security challenges, and the start of a positive loop, in which governance and development would lead the country out of the condition of a failed state (in existence since the fall of the never sufficiently deprecated regime of Siad Barre, which laid the foundations of the current instability). There has only been control of the situation, but no reversing of the negative trend.
To determine the future of AMISOM, the AU and the UN conducted independent assessments last year and various options were proposed. An agreement was required on the mandate, composition, size, strategic and specific objectives of a new mission and the tasks of the military, civilian and police components. These processes have made the relations between the international community and the Somali authorities very tense, which although divided over everything, were unanimous in the very strong opposition to any possible reduction of forces and substantial modification of the mandate of AMISOM due to the slow process of integration between the national armed and security forces and those of the autonomous regions of Puntland and Jubaland.

Such was the hostility that last November the deputy head of the mission, the Ugandan diplomat Simon Mulongo was expelled, and a week after the start of ATMIS (!). The same was done with the Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson for Somalia (SRCC), the Mozambican diplomat Francisco Madeira.

Now the mission is guided by an acting head, and Addis Ababa is negotiating with Mogadishu for another head of mission; and clearly the problem is not in the choice of the person but what the mission should do. This shows how for ATMIS the scenario is difficult and all uphill even without Al-Shabab. Somalia’s government wants ATMIS to focus on implementing the Transition Plan, developed in 2018, to transfer security responsibilities from AMISOM to the country’s security forces, but with substantial cash flows to equip and train them. It has recently been revised and will be implemented (hopefully) over the next three years. The AU and the UN agreed to this approach. Bankole Adeoye, the Nigerian diplomat who is the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs and Head of the Peace and Security Council, said the stabilization and construction goals of the Somali state and the activation of ATMIS will be fully in line with the Transition Plan.

The AU Peace and Security Council outlined a mandate for the new mission which included reducing the military capabilities of Al-Shabab and other terrorist groups, providing security, building the capabilities of security forces, justice and local authorities and support for peace and reconciliation. But as well, the mandate of AMISOM was the same and was aligned with the Transition Plan, so there was nothing new in ATMIS in this regard, compared to the previous one.

The biggest change is perhaps that the emphasis on the idea of a “transition” is most strongly rooted in the logic of the new mission, which has a four-step timeline for working with the Somali government to implement the Transition Plan. In addition, some minor adjustments should also occur, such as realignment of ATMIS facilities relative to those of AMISOM and greater command and control authority under the mission force commander; but these are limited overall. In terms of operational changes, ATMIS will differ from AMISOM in increasing mobility, lethality, and efficiency in every sector of the mission, with the main goal of rapidly degrading the capabilities of Al-Shabab and other extremist militant groups.

This capacity should increase soon, after it was dramatically reduced when the US forces present in Somalia were withdrawn in a controversial decision by President Trump in December 2020. Just after the election of the new President of Somalia, the Pentagon notified the return of a substantial presence. This presence, with special forces operators and drone units, and after the withdrawal was re-deployed in Djibouti, will increase the capabilities of the pan-African troops.

Regardless of the May 2 attack, Al-Shabab continues to exert strong pressure on international and Somali forces and the group still controls vast territories of central and southern Somalia. It carries out deadly raids in the Somali capital itself and has substantial financial resources (according to a research institute based in Mogadishu, in 2021 it has collected about $180 Million in revenue [taxes and customs] and has spent 24 million dollars on weapons). In recent months, many attacks have been reported, aggravated by social strikes and riots in Mogadishu and Beledweyne which caused over 53 deaths.

As mentioned, the presence of the “green helmets” was envisaged as an element of activation of a process of national unification, albeit in a federal context. Thus, prioritizing the political deadlock would help resolve the country’s security challenges; but the replacement of AMISOM with ATMIS comes at a critical time. Political tensions in the country still threaten the modest progress made over the years. The divisions among the Somali elites over the distribution of power and resources are at the heart of all problems. Two peaceful transitions of power occurred in 2012 and 2017, but the third faltered due to disputes over election management. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo,” in power since 2017, remained in office after his term expired in February 2021 and he was re-elected on 15 May, ending, at least formally, the institutional stalemate and re-activating a more serene dialogue also with the international community.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble (the defeated competitor of “Farmaajo” in the presidential run) has been tasked with reforming the electoral process. But progress has been slow, despite the tireless mediation work of UNPOS (UN Political Office for Somalia). The country’s future is unpredictable, with the political impasse sometimes leading to armed clashes and persistent external interference, such as by Turkey, Qatar and the UAE, which have their own agendas (and substantial military presences on the ground) and which do not necessarily coincide with the plans of the UN and the EU. (But then the UK also has its own bilateral training mission of the Somali armed forces, the “Tangham” operation, with about sixty instructors; and Italy, the former colonial power, has a similar one, MIADIT-Somalia, which is focused on training the Somali and Djibouti police forces and which works closely with EUCAP- Somalia).

In terms of the wider regional dynamics, how the new government will position itself in the neighbourhood will have implications in terms of realignment of regional politics and may affect the project of a tripartite alliance of Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. The outcome of the election will also affect Somalia’s relations with Gulf countries. Qatar is said to have supported Farmaajo’s re-election, whereas the UAE has maintained ties with Roble and some of the federal member states.
ATMIS will also suffer the same financial problems as AMISOM. The United Nations has provided logistical support to the mission, and will continue to do so with the UNSOS (UN Support Office for Somalia). The new (or old) AU presence in Somalia will impact also in the format and mandate of UNSOS, which will get a “technical” extension mandate in the month of May from the Security Council in the perspective of a strategic assessment of the mission and a possible re-tailoring.

The EU, it is supposed, will continue to pay the salaries of ATMIS military and police personnel, as it had done for AMISOM. But the EU has progressively reduced its support in recent years (also to protest the internal policies of some countries participating in AMISOM, especially in the areas of political and civil liberties), and its intentions for ATMIS are not yet clear, even if the EU Delegation in Somalia assured that the organization is ready to contribute and ensure predictability of funding as long as the configuration plan is realistic, pragmatic and focused.

Thus, it appears that ATMIS will not differ substantially from AMISOM in its ultimate purposes. It will mainly be a continuation of the current military support which, although essential for the security of the country, will not be new.

As political deadlock is at the heart of Somalia’s social and security problems. Resolving these should be the priority; and the recent election of a new President is not a guarantee for such a resolution, given the controversial and conflictive political life of the country. If it is to differ from AMISOM, the mandate of ATMIS and the reconfiguration of international and local forces should include a solid political commitment to support reconciliation between the country’s divided political groups and better political cooperation between the UN and AU (and EU). Otherwise, the exercise of simply renaming the mission without addressing the institutional and political problems in the first place that afflict the country and that keep it anchored to the condition of a “failed state,” will not help much to change.
Analyzing the recent developments in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, a region of increasing importance, naturally leads to a broadening of view, considering, or at least trying to consider, the possible future regional and sub-regional repercussions of the war in Ukraine. Russia’s relations with Africa are under heavy pressure in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine and amidst the articulate reactions from the continent’s states to the new war in Europe.

In recent years, Moscow has strengthened ties with countries across the continent, especially those plagued by internal violence and which are also disillusioned with Western powers. Russia remains a leading arms supplier and Russian private military contractors continue to expand their presence, most recently in Mali, Central Africa, Cameroon, and Sudan (not counting the political-diplomatic forays into Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad). Whether Russia is pursuing a broader strategy, or simply engaging in tactical power plays, focused to disturb the role and presence of Western powers in Africa, remains a matter of debate. Russia has long sought a naval base on the Red Sea and holds its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council to influence the Continent.

Africa’s response to the Ukrainian crisis has been far from united. During the historic session of the UN General Assembly in early March, the emerging rifts were clearly shown: only about half of African states supported the resolution’s denunciation of Russian aggression; one, the only one of the Continent and furthermore belonging to the Horn of Africa, Eritrea, has opposed. While some countries have strongly condemned the invasion as a flagrant violation of crucial norms, others have been more hesitant, often emphasizing the West’s inconsistent commitment to these same principles in other situations, and the West’s murky and contradictory statements and actions.

It is a fact that in the African Continent, and in the very sensitive region of the Horn of Africa and its surrounding areas (the Suez Canal/Red Sea/Bab-el-Mandeb Strait axis), the situation remains open to interference, if not directly Russian, possibly by other players (such as Iran, present in Yemen), with further upheavals in an already fragile region.


Enrico Magnani, PhD, is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).


Featured image: mural by Nujuum Hashi Ahmed, 2020.

Jupiterian Johnson: Median voters, Tories and the French

Once again Teflon John(son) proves how essential his self is to this cosmic mess the Good Lord sees fit to test us with. For Boris, the particulars are really quite pedestrian – just another scandal, just another broken rule – which by all rights, well… if none of the other scandals did him in, a surprise birthday cake surely wouldn’t have carried enough climax for BoJo, especially given recent jurisprudence on surprise birthday celebrations at work.

I wanted to bring this up as an example of a tragic trend – the failed baptism of fire, whereby a candidate (or just a regular person) is successfully (character)-assassinated despite being well above both the circumstances and the critics assailing them. Boris Johnson, Legend of Bullingdon, Editor of the Spectator, Father of 6(0?), Wankerer of Ankara, Mayor of London, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Deliverer of Brexit, etc etc… Felled by birthday cake?

The chance to go over his record is too good to pass up. Not only does he stand as a shining example of “Stick-to-it-iveness” for lesser mortals in need of inspiration on matters relating to perseverance, he has brought back sound government to the UK, channeling that eye of Sauron that is public attention toward the great issues of his day – leveling up Britain’s shire-heartland, where the first and second industrial revolutions brought together science and commerce, banishing scarcity in any number of areas (clothing, and then many more).

His government has made great strides in Migration policy, signing a migration partnership agreement with Rwanda which correctly aligned the rules of the international system – Rwanda is indeed a safe third country, which has every right to accept migrants on behalf of another country, in exchange for whichever sum is agreeable to both parties. One wonders if the organized criminals known as human traffickers will make the logical next move, which would be to sell Rwandan deportation insurance and open an office in Kigali for them to appeal to.

Boris is also doing the heaviest lifting for the West on keeping New Delhi onside – where Washington insists on alienating Narendra Modi unnecessarily over who knows what excuse (the real reason is Pakistani capture of the Democratic party, but that’s a story for another day). Par for the course on the Democrats’ inversion of all goodness, Modi’s stunning electoral victories (his party holds upwards of 80% of seats in the Indian Parliament) are somehow not democratic… presumably because it only counts when the left carries the day.

London is running point on the Ukrainian war, as well. Nobody has done more for the war effort than Britain’s MOD and the British spooks, to say nothing of Boris himself visiting Zelensky in Kiev. Zelensky himself has very harsh words for fair-weather friends trying to get a photo op out of his passing popularity on the world stage. Boris is not one of them, and the Ukrainians are lucky someone in the Free World has the Jupiterian nous to rally the rest of the pantheon in a coherent direction.

The other claimant to Zeus’ thundery crown – recently re-elected Emmanuel Macron – could learn a lesson or two from the Tory persuasion to find the center of every position, rather than present himself as the center. As the Median Voter Theorem predicted, he did sail to victory for being closer to the center, but Marine Le Pen found a way to drag ever more of France’s electorate toward her position – shifting the Overton window her way. Therein lies the lesson for Boris Johnson: Where his party might want him to govern by Opinion Poll (the great mistake of his predecessor, David Cameron) it is in moments like this where he must carry the public in his direction by the force of being correct on the substance of the issues.

In the spirit of a recent decision in America (Florida in particular) about mandatory masking – decided against the government’s power to do such a thing – I propose legislation amnestying all pandemic offenses and striking/refunding fines for all offenders. The spectacle of British Bobbies arresting people for sitting on park benches should really have been enough of a hint: After all, Boris’ original instinct – natural herd immunity – is now a provably less costly means of arriving at a better result. Closing the schools (which neither Sweden nor Ron DeSantis’ Florida did) is without exception the greatest harm committed by governments against their populations present and future. Official recognition of such mistakes cannot but restore trust in lawful, common-sense government administration.

Which brings me back to the feeble attempts for taking down Boris, that essential figure of our time. Dominic Cummings, who succumbed to a pandemic-related scandal regarding the sort of rules Boris is now on the record as having broken, no doubt stews in resentment – altogether a waste of his considerable talents, which would presumably be available once again after this blanket pardon. Other highfalutin satraps of 10 Downing Street have also been felled for having been at or around wine, crowds or otherwise found in violation of whatever the law happened to be on that particular day.

The meaning of a recent Florida court decision – striking down the Federal mask mandate – is that wags telling us we were wrong/criminal were themselves in violation of the law. They’ve done nothing to alleviate the “degraded trust” in institutions which institutionalists never tire of complaining about – before going on to waste whatever credibility they have left on enforcing rules everyone already knows aren’t worth a dime.

The highlighting of rampant thievery during the pandemic, and its swift prosecution by the authorities (particularly in contracting abuses, which is where the political geese will be gandered) must be a central plank of this effort. If ever there was a chance for folks like Dominic Cummings and Steve Bannon to dismantle the administrative state, this is it.

Pandemic Profiteering kept the lockdown racket going for much, much longer than it needed to. Bankers trying to make their yearly quotas 6 months early by placing bonds – to pay for unnecessary PPE and lots of vaccines for people who had already recovered once or twice from a virus that wasn’t even going to kill them anyway – locked into place a government policy that made them money on the backs of the populations they were stealing liberties from. Aping the Chinese communist party doesn’t make for good policy? Who would have guessed?

Those of us who remain unvaccinated even when it was illegal have something to say about unlawful birthday cakes. Take your laws and shove them.


Felipe Cuello is Professor of Public Policy at the Pontifical university in Santo Domingo. He remains an operative of the Republican Party in the United States, where he served in both the Trump campaigns as well as the transition team of 2016/17 in a substantive foreign policy role. His past service includes the United Nations’ internal think tank, the International Maritime Organization, The European Union’s development-aid arm, and the office of a Brexiteer Member of the European Parliament previous to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. He is also the co-author and voice of the audiobook of Trump’s World: Geo Deus released in January 2020, back when discussing substance and principles were the order of the day.


Nord Stream 2: A Key to the War in Ukraine

Beneath the soil of the Ukraine is a network of gas pipelines through which part of the Russian supply to Europe passes. Between 2004 and 2005, 80% of Russian gas destined for Europe passed through the Ukrainian subsurface. When Gazprom (the Russian state-owned energy giant) cut off supplies to the Ukrainians in January 2006 and January 2009, the Ukrainians appropriated the gas destined for Europe, resulting in huge losses for those countries highly dependent on Russian gas, and this in turn greatly discredited Russia as a supplier.

In order to avoid this Ukrainian transit system, the Russians decided to build two new gas pipelines. Gazprom said that linking a gas pipeline directly to Germany without the need to go through transit countries would avoid cutting off Russian gas exports to Western Europe, as had already happened twice. Thus, was born the Nord Stream (Northern Stream, Севеверный поток) project, a gas pipeline that would link Russia to Europe (directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea) without the need to pass through Ukraine or Belarus.

Since April 2006, Poland’s Defense Minister Radek Sikorski compared the agreements on building a gas pipeline to the German-Soviet non-aggression pact, the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact signed in the early morning of August 24, 1939, because Poland is particularly sensitive to agreements made over its head. Every pact made by Russia and Germany will be linked to that pact and will thus be demonized (this is how simplistic propaganda is—but it is equally effective, not because of the merit of the propagandists but because of the demerit of the ignorant masses, who abound).

The Swedish Minister of Defense, Mikael Odenberg, pointed to the project as a danger to Sweden’s security policy, as the gas pipeline passing through the Baltic would motivate the presence of the Russian Navy in Sweden’s economic zone, which the Russians would take advantage of to benefit their military intelligence. In fact, Putin justified the presence of the Russian Navy to ensure ecological security.

The German weekly Stern speculated that the fiber optic cable and repeater stations along the pipeline could be used for Russian espionage. But Nord Stream AG (the pipeline builder) responded by arguing that a fiber optic control cable was not necessary and had not even been planned. Gazprom’s Deputy Chairman of the Board, Alexander Medvedev, dismissed the issue by pointing out that “Some objections are put forward that are laughable – political, military or linked to spying. That is really surprising because in the modern world… it is laughable to say a gas pipeline is a weapon in a spy war.” Wherever the Russians are, there is always the fear of spies (there is not the same suspicion with the Yankees, despite Edward Snowden’s revelations—Hell is always on the other side).

The Rockefellerian Greenpeace also complained about the construction of the gas pipeline, since it would cross several zones catalogued as marine conservation areas.

On June 13, 2007, in response to ecological concerns, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, stated that “Russia fully respects the desire to provide for the 100% environmental sustainability of the project and that Russia is fully supportive of such an approach, and that all environmental concerns would be addressed in the process of environmental impact assessment.”

The pipeline was inaugurated on November 8, 2011, at a ceremony in the municipality of Lubmin (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev; also present were French Prime Minister François Fillon and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

There were also plans to build South Stream, a gas pipeline that was to run from Russia to Bulgaria, across the Black Sea, reaching Greece and Italy. But it was eventually cancelled in favor of Blue Stream, which carries natural gas from southern Russia to Turkey via the Black Sea. Thanks to this pipeline, Turkey is the second largest importer of Russian gas, second only to Germany.

While Germany was able to carry out the Nord Stream 1 project, Greece and Italy saw their South Stream project scrapped. This is a sign of who has more power in the pretentious European Union. But Nord Stream 2 has not been able to go that far and—as we shall see—the Germans have bowed to the dictates of the Americans.

Nord Stream 1 consists of two gas pipelines running from Vyborg (northwest Russia) to Greifswald (northeast Germany). It has the capacity to transport 55 billion cubic meters per year, although in 2021 it was capable of transporting 59.2 billion cubic meters. It is the pipeline through which the largest volume of gas to the EU passes.

Work on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline lasted from 2018 to 2021, and it is estimated that the pipeline material can last about 50 years. The pipeline starts from the Slavyanskaya compressor station near the port of Ust-Luga (in the Kingiseppsky district of Leningrad Oblast) to Greifswald (West Pomerania). In 2019 the Swiss company Allsea, which was in charge of laying the pipeline, abandoned the project and Gazprom had to complete it on its own. The first line was completed in June 2021 and the second completed in September. It was planned to open in mid-2022, which was intended to double the gas transported to 110 billion cubic meters per year. In addition to Gazprom, the partners to build Nord Stream 2 were Uniper, Wintershall, OMV, Engie and Shell plc.

The German government approved the project in March 2018, in order to move Germany away from nuclear power and coal (i.e., for environmentalist reasons, always hot-topics in Germany, especially since the not-particularly-democratic times). The costs of the gas pipeline are estimated at 9.9 billion euros: 4.75 billion were put in by Gazprom and the rest by its partners.

Nord Stream 2 would have completed third and fourth lines (compared to the first and second lines of Nord Stream 1). Through the Baltic, Nord Stream 1 and 2 basically follow the same route. Both pipelines take their gas from fields on the Yamal peninsula and from the Ob and Taz bays. With the two pipelines (with four lines in total), Germany would supply Russian gas to other countries, which would undoubtedly improve the situation in the European market, overcoming the energy crisis. The Germans went so far as to argue that Nord Stream 2 would be more cost-effective than overland deliveries through Eastern Europe. Russia has supplied 35.4% of the gas reaching Germany (and with Nord Stream 2 it would have doubled the amount) and 34% of the oil.

The main opponents of Nord Stream 2 have been the Baltic countries, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary(?), Romania, Croatia, Moldova—and mainly Poland and Ukraine; all of them supported by the European Commission and the US. These countries opposed Nord Stream 2 because a direct gas pipeline to Germany could mean the stoppage of energy supplies to them, as well as depriving them of lucrative transit tariffs.

Chronology of U.S. Policy against Nord Stream 2

U.S. complaints against the pipeline are not exclusive to the Biden Administration (which was pressured by its own fellow Democrats to take a hard line against Russia, hence calling Putin a “murderer;” as if the Obama Administration of which Biden was Vice President had not committed countless war crimes, far more than Russia may have committed—but the first African-American president is a demon who “does not smell of sulfur”). Already with Obama, the protests began when the project was not yet fully been put together (the idea of the project began to take shape in October 2012).

With the Trump Administration the complaints dragged on, and never stopped, even though at first Trump claimed that he would not enforce the Act against America’s enemies through sanctions on Russian energy exports. But before long he would change his mind. Trump even threatened to impose tariffs on EU countries, and proposed reopening talks to forge a U.S.-EU trade deal, if the draft were canceled.

On January 27, 2018, coinciding with the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (who was a former CEO of Exxon Mobil, i.e., this was a Rockefeller man infiltrating the Trump Administration, who would eventually be ousted by the more loyal Mike Pompeo) argued that the U.S. and Poland opposed Nord Stream 2, because it was considered a danger to Europe’s energy security and stability, ” and it provides Russia yet another tool to politicize energy as a political tool.”

U.S. senators from both parties were concerned in March 2018, when the German government approved the project, and wrote that ” “by circumventing Ukraine, Nord Stream II will remove one of the biggest reasons for Russia to avoid large-scale conflict in Eastern Ukraine—as the Kremlin is well aware.”

Ukraine’s transit used to supply 44% of Russian gas for the EU, pocketing the (increasingly corrupt) state coffers some $3 billion a month. But with Nord Stream 2, this was to change and the transit through the Ukrainian subsoil was to be reduced by a further 10 times. This would have caused Ukraine to lose 3% of its GDP. In Ukraine this was seen as undermining its sovereignty and also the collective energy security of the whole of Europe, as transit of gas through Ukraine deters Russian aggression, and this would end with the opening of Nord Stream 2, which in turn would have made Germany the main gas hub in Europe.

The U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, sent a letter in January 2019 to the companies in charge of building the pipeline, urging them to abandon the project and threatening them with sanctions if they continued with the project. In December of that year, Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Ron Johson also pressured the project companies.

European Council President Donald Tusk, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and then British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson also protested against the construction of Nord Stream 2. Tusk made it clear that the pipeline was not in the interests of the European Union. European Commission officials stated that “Nord Stream 2 does not enhance our [EU] energy security.”

Nord Stream 2 is something that divided the EU. Although when the Oval Office of the White House was occupied by Donald Trump the project did not seem so bad, and both France, Austria and Germany, plus the European Commission, criticized the United States (i.e., the Trump Administration) for new sanctions against Russia because of the pipeline, as they complained that the United States was threatening Europe’s energy supply.

So complained Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern and German Foreign Minister Sigman Gabriel in a joint statement: “Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, and not for the United States of America.” And they added: “To threaten companies from Germany, Austria and other European states with penalties on the U.S. market if they participate in natural gas projects such as Nord Stream 2 with Russia or finance them introduces a completely new and very negative quality into European-American relations.” But—as we are about to see—German politicians, with the Social Democratic government, have not been so bold with the Biden Administration.

Isabelle Kocher, the CEO of the ENGIE Group (a local French-owned group that distributes electricity, natural gas, oil and renewable energies), criticized the US sanctions and claimed that they were trying to promote American gas in Europe (which is the key to this whole affair). Olaf Scholz, when he was Finance Minister in the Merkel-led coalition government, called the sanctions “a severe intervention in German and European internal affairs.” An EU spokesman criticized “the imposition of sanctions against EU companies conducting legitimate business.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said on Twitter that “European energy policy is decided in Europe, not in the United States.” Lavrov would argue that the U.S. Congress “is literally overwhelmed by the desire to do everything possible to destroy” relations with Russia. However, it should be noted that Germany strongly backed sanctions against Russia over the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

The German Eastern Business Association said in a statement that “America wants to sell its liquefied gas in Europe, for which Germany is building terminals. Should we arrive at the conclusion that US sanctions are intended to push competitors out of the European market, our enthusiasm for bilateral projects with the US will significantly cool.”

On December 21, 2019, Trump signed a bill imposing sanctions on companies that contributed to the construction of the pipeline, which was halted after Trump’s signature, although it would resume again in December 2020, following the election of Joe Biden as president. But immediately, on January 1, 2021, an annual defense policy bill passed by the U.S. Congress included sanctions for those companies working on the pipeline or securing it. On January 26, the White House announced that the new president also believes that “Nord Stream 2 is a bad deal for Europe,” and therefore his Administration will “review” the new sanctions.

Therefore, bipartisanship on Capitol Hill has been against the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, not because it is “a bad deal for Europe” but because it is a bad deal for the United States. On this “globalists” and “patriots” agree.

On July 30, 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the Senate criticizing the construction of Nord Stream 2: ” We will do everything we can to make sure that that pipeline doesn’t threaten Europe. We want Europe to have real, secure, stable, safe energy resources that cannot be turned off in the event Russia wants to.” It’s as if he said, “We will do everything we can to make sure that pipeline doesn’t threaten the United States. We want Europe to have energy resources that it buys from the United States.” He added that the State Department and the Treasury Department “have made very clear in our conversations with those who have equipment there the expressed threat that is posed to them for continuing to work on completion of the pipeline.”

On April 20, 2021, one read on the website of the European Council on Foreign Relations (Soros think-tank): “It would be bad for Europe if American pressure forced the cancellation of the pipeline and left Germany and other member states whose companies participate in its construction bitter and beaten. It would also be bad for Europe if the pipeline ended up bulldozing Poland’s misgivings and portraying Germany as a selfish actor that did not care about its partners. Either of these outcomes would also weaken the transatlantic alliance and, more or less directly, benefit Moscow… if Washington halts the project, Moscow will find another reason to dismiss Europe as a policy actor that lacks credibility. Of course, this should not mean that Europe needs to save Nord Stream 2 just to impress Russia. The EU’s reasoning should have deeper roots than that.” It was thus “a relationship management problem.”

However, on May 19, 2021, the U.S. government waived sanctions against Nord Stream AG, but imposed sanctions against four Russian banks and five Russian companies. Sergei Ryabkov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, rejoiced and viewed the move as “a chance for a gradual transition toward the normalisation of our bilateral ties.”

Republican Senator Jim Risch stated that such a move was ” a gift to Putin that will only weaken the United States.”

Yurity Vitrenko of Naftogaz (Ukraine’s state-owned oil and gas company) opposed the move and claimed that Ukraine was pressuring the U.S. to reimpose sanctions to stop the pipeline from opening. Biden claimed that he stopped the sanctions because the pipeline was nearly completed and because the sanctions had damaged U.S.-EU relations.

Ukraine’s president, then an unknown in the West, Volodymyr Zelensky, said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision of the Biden Administration, which also declined to sanction Nord Stream AG CEO Mathias Warning, a Putin ally.

However, in June 2021, the pipe-laying of the two gas pipeline lines was fully completed. On July 20, 2021, Biden and an already outgoing Angela Merkel agreed that the United States could sanction Russia if it used Nord Stream 2 as a “political weapon,” with the aim of preventing Poland and Ukraine from running out of Russian gas.

Merkel is an avowed Atlanticist and was not exactly enthusiastic about the Nord Stream 2 project, but she saw no way to back out. For her, it was a very delicate situation.

Ukraine would get a loan of $50 million to invest in green technology until 2024, and Germany would set up a $1 billion fund for Ukraine to switch to green energy and thus compensate for the loss of tariffs because not all the Russian gas that was to pass through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would be transported through its subsoil.

Now fully decided, after the strange hesitation, in November 2021, the U.S. State Department imposed further financial sanctions on Russian companies linked to Nord Stream 2.

On December 9, 2021, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Marawiecki pressured the new German Chancellor, Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, not to inaugurate Nord Stream 2 and not to give in to Russian pressure, and therefore “not to allow Nord Stream 2 to be used as an instrument for blackmail against Ukraine, an instrument for blackmail against Poland, an instrument for blackmail against the European Union.”

Upon detecting Russian troops on Ukraine’s eastern border, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced new sanctions on December 23rd.

Olaf Scholz was pressured to stop the opening of the pipeline at the EU summit. On February 7, 2022, he met with Biden at the White House, and at the press conference he stated that the U.S. and Germany were “we are acting together. We are absolutely united and we will not be taking different steps. We will do the same steps and they will be very, very hard to Russia and they should understand. As the President [Biden] said, we are preparing for that. You can understand and you can be absolutely sure that Germany will be together with all its allies and especially the United States, that we take the same steps. There will be no differences in that situation… I say to our American friends, we will be united. We will act together and we will take all the necessary steps and all the necessary steps will be done by all of us together.”

We see that he was no longer complaining about US intervention “in German and European internal affairs,” as we had seen him say when he was Finance Minister in the coalition government with Merkel, while Trump was in the White House.

For his part, Joe Biden warned that if Russia invades Ukraine, with “tanks or troops,” as would end up happening, “then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”

In the face of Biden’s threats to Russia, Scholz kept a timid silence, saying absolutely nothing about blatant U.S. interference in Germany’s economic relations with Russia. He bowed to Washington’s dictates.

On February 15, Scholz met with Putin in Moscow, where the Russian president affirmed that the pipeline would consolidate European energy security and that it was a “purely commercial” matter. As if economics were not economics-politics and as if it were not a geopolitical issue of the utmost importance and, as we have seen, of vital importance.

Scholz stated that the negotiations had been intense yet confident and pleaded with Russia to avoid being involved in the conflict with Ukraine.

At the press conference, Putin went so far as to say, “Germany is one of Russia’s key partners. We have always striven for interaction between our states. Germany ranks second after China among Russia’s foreign trade partners. Despite the difficult situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic and volatility in global markets, by the end of 2021, mutual trade grew by 36% and reached almost 57 billion. In the 1970s of the last century, our countries successfully implemented a historic project. It was called “Gas in exchange for pipelines.” And since then, German and other European consumers have been reliably and uninterruptedly supplied with Russian gas. Today, Russia meets more than one-third of Germany’s energy transportation needs.”

The “Gas for Pipelines” project was possible despite the Cold War, and the United States tried to prevent the construction of the Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod gas pipeline and also tried to prevent German entrepreneurs from participating in the project, although it was eventually built 1982-1984 and officially inaugurated in France, complementing the Western Siberia-Western Europe transcontinental gas transport system that had existed since 1973. This pipeline transits Ukraine, pumping gas to Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. At that time the USSR did not have the capacity to produce the required pipelines. After construction, large deliveries of gas from Russia began, from the gigantic Vengoyskoye field to Germany and other European countries. The consequences of so much gas were the replacement of US coal in the European market and the FRG enjoyed a great economic boost. These gas agreements between Russia and Europe (then the USSR) did not benefit the United States, of which the US took careful note.

Scholz later met with Zelensky, where he was accused of using “Merkel’s playbook” by avoiding questions about the pipeline at the press conference he gave together with the Ukrainian president.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that the future of the pipeline depended on Russia’s behavior in Ukraine. On February 19, she stated at the Munich Security Conference that Europe could not be so dependent on Russia for its energy needs (perhaps she wants it to be dependent on the United States, and not only for energy but geopolitically, which is the logical consequence). “A strong European Union cannot be so reliant on an energy supplier that is threatens to start a war on our continent… We can impose high costs and severe consequences on Moscow’s economic interests. The Kremlin’s strange thinking that comes straight out of a dark past may cost Russia a prosperous future… We will hope still that peace will prevail and that diplomacy will take us there.”

On February 22, the day after Russia recognized the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Olaf Scholz, who was always in favor of the project but had just come from seeing Biden (although he did immediately afterwards visit Putin), suspended the certification of Nord Stream 2. “Today I asked the Federal Ministry of Economics to revoke the energy security report of the Federal Network Agency… This is a necessary step so that the certification of the pipeline cannot take place now. Without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot be launched.” German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock told reporters that the German government had “frozen” the project.

On February 23, Biden ordered sanctions to be imposed on the pipeline operator, Nord Stream 2 AG, and also on company officials. “These steps are another part of our initial tranche of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. As I have made clear, we will not hesitate to take further action if Russia continues to escalate.” Such sanctions were imposed after “close consultations” between the U.S. and German governments. And he thanked Scholz for his “close cooperation and unwavering commitment to holding Russia accountable for its actions;” in other words, he thanked him for his subservience to the United States. By recognizing the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Putin, Biden said, “gave the world an irresistible incentive to abandon Russian gas and switch to other forms of energy.”

The day after, Russia began the “special military operation” in Ukraine. Thus, the United States now had the war it needed to make sure that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline would not be opened and German-Russian relations would break down; although Nord Stream 1 would continue to carry gas to Germany, functioning like the other gas pipelines supplying Europe, with which Russia is pocketing some 800 million euros a day, plus 260 million euros for exporting oil.

On March 8, the United States banned all imports of oil and gas from Russia, breaking historical records in the price of gasoline (7% of the oil consumed by the United States is Russian).

On March 9 the Russian President’s press secretary, Dimitry Preskov, responded to the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland—the woman who said “f**k the EU,” by stating that Nord Stream 2 is “dead and will not be revived” (a day earlier in the US Congress she had said that the pipeline is just “a pile of metal at the bottom of the sea”)—and Preskov told her that the pipeline is ready for use, adding that the United States is declaring economic war on Russia.

A Geo-Economic and therefore Geopolitical Dispute

Rather than an infrastructure project in the federative power (or international trade) of the core layers of the States concerned, Nord Stream 2 seems rather a symbol of discord in diplomatic power and even in military power, something we are seeing in Ukraine. Undoubtedly, Nord Stream 2 and all gas and oil pipelines entail geopolitical problems, because the basal resources are embedded in the core problems of the dialectics of states (economy is always economy-politics; that is, both cannot be understood as megaregional spheres but as conjugated concepts—conceptually dissociable, existentially inseparable).

Undoubtedly, as it is rightly accused, Russia uses its energy power as a geopolitical and geostrategic weapon, as does the United States. In fact, such Russian power is enormous. Adding oil, gas and coal exports, Russia is the world’s largest exporter of these products.

If Nord Stream 2 had been implemented, the United States would have lost influence over the EU and also over Ukraine. This would have made European countries, primarily Germany, even more dependent on Russian energy resources. Some of these countries, and of course the ringleader of the gang, the United States, took a stand against the construction of this pipeline. Ukraine was seen as one of the economies most affected if Nord Stream 2 were to be put into operation, since a large quantity of raw materials from Russia would no longer pass through its subsoil (although this would also affect Russia’s rather vassal ally, Belarus).

The Russians argued that with Nord Stream 2 the price of gas would go down, as some 55 billion cubic meters of gas would be transported per year (more or less the same amount that Nord Stream 1 sends). It should be borne in mind that just over a third of the gas arriving in Europe comes from Russia.

In Spain only 10% of the gas received is Russian. Algeria (Russia’s historical ally) is the main gas exporter to Spain (30% of its gas ends up in Spain), and the government of Pedro Sánchez is not exactly being diplomatically tactful with this country; moreover, it is treating it with extreme imprudence, ceding the Sahara to Morocco (abandoning the poor Saharawis for the second time). Perhaps this is the reward the sultanate has received for recognizing Israel. But then is not in Spain, for several decades now, foreign policy is not foreign policy but continuous betrayal?

Note what the 2019 report from the leading U.S. think tank RAND Corporation said: “Increasing Europe’s ability to import gas from suppliers other than Russia could economically extend Russia and buffer Europe against Russian energy coercion. Europe is slowly moving in this direction by building regasification plants for liquefied natural gas (LNG). But to be truly effective, this option would need global LNG markets to become more flexible than they already are and would need LNG to become more price-competitive with Russian gas.”

Germany saw its energy security endangered if Nord Stream 2 did not come on stream. And it should be borne in mind that this was a project that was built on the initiative of Berlin and not Moscow. And yet, Germany has sided with Ukraine (thus bowing to the dictates of the Washington Empire).

But it should also be borne in mind that with Nord Stream 2 the relationship between Russia and Germany was not exclusively one of dependence of the latter on the former, since Russia would also depend on Germany, that is to say, a relationship of cooperation would be established, which is what the United States does not want. And Germany in turn would distribute the gas coming from Russia to the other countries.

The problem is that if this gas pipeline begins to pump gas, then the United States could lose the vassalage of Germany and other European countries. The United States has always tried to prevent trade relations between Germany and Russia from prospering (it did so when it came to the FRG and the USSR, as we have seen).

Hence Biden’s complaints (like Trump’s, and also Obama’s), since the US wants to prevent at all costs the opening of Nord Stream 2. Wouldn’t Russia be helping to consolidate German leadership in the EU with this pipeline? Although historically, despite Napoleon, Russia has maintained better relations with France. And certainly, the Russians do not forget the two world wars, especially the Great Patriotic War.

Germany argued that Nord Stream 1 did not prevent the Reich from taking a hard line against Russian expansionism. And, crucially, that the United States opposed the project because it wanted to sell more liquefied natural gas to European markets (that sums up the plot).

Almost a quarter of the energy consumed by the EU is natural gas, and a third of this comes from Russia, with the eastern countries obviously being more dependent on this gas. The EU receives 40% of its gas from Russia, as well as 27% of its oil. The United States does not get any Russian gas, although it does get—as we have already said—7% of its oil (which it now intends to replace with Venezuelan oil). On March 25, 2022, the EU finalized an agreement in which the United States will supply 15,000 million cubic meters of liquefied gas to the EU market this year. And between now and 2030. Mission accomplished: Europe bows its head before its servant.

And how can the United States afford to put the brakes on a project between two sovereign nations behind a pharaonic construction site thousands of kilometers apart? Could it be that Germany, which together with France leads the EU, is nothing more than a vassal of the United States, even if it now intends to rearm? And if the Franco-German axis is a vassal of the United States, won’t Spain, forsaken Spain, be a vassal of the vassals? Be that as it may, the United States has behaved towards Germany like an extortionist gangster—who forces shopkeepers at gunpoint to buy his merchandise. Then, armed with a titanium diboride face, they call it a “free market.”

According to a European Commission report, entitled “EU-US LNG Trade,” in 2021 the record supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States to the EU was overtaken, exceeding 22 billion cubic meters. In January 2022 it had reached 4.4 billion cubic meters (if it continues at this rate, it would reach more than 50 billion). But this is not enough for the United States. Nevertheless, the European Commission is in favor of the Yankees being the main suppliers of natural gas to the EU market.

In view of all this, it could be said that the United States has fomented a war in Ukraine for the purpose of restricting the EU’s economic cooperation with Russia, which goes against the interests of the Union, which has behaved in this crisis as a group of vassal states of Washington; something that has been the case for a long time, practically after the Second World War—except that it has now manifested itself in an embarrassing way.

In an interview given by Jacques Baud, a Swiss army colonel, military intelligence expert and deputy to NATO and the UN, he said: “I am sure that Putin did not want to attack Ukraine, he said this repeatedly. Obviously, there was pressure from the US to start the war. The US has little interest in Ukraine itself. What they wanted was to increase pressure on Germany to shut down Nord Stream 2. They wanted Ukraine to provoke Russia, and if Russia reacted, Nord Stream 2 would be frozen.”

Also, the UK looks set to benefit as a “transit” country for natural gas supplies to Europe, via the pipeline through Belgium and the Netherlands, which will try to get rid of dependence on Russian gas as planned for this summer by the only British energy operator gathering North Sea gas in Norway: National Grid. As The Daily Telegraph reported, National Grid believes it can export some 5.1 bcm to Europe this summer. It is also considering importing liquefied gas from the U.S. to the U.K. for conversion into normal gas for export to Europe.

Because of the Russian military operation in the armada-by-NATO-countries-(not all)-Ukraine, the non-opening of Nord Stream 2 has not divided European countries, as happened in 2003 with the Iraq war, even though the UK has left the EU. There seems to be an anti-Russian consensus (perhaps anti-Sorosian Hungary is the exception, although it is ambiguously).

To win Russia’s alliance against China, neither the Trump Administration (which was what it intended) nor the Biden Administration (which has shown the world its exacerbated Russophobia, along the lines of the Polish-U.S.-trilateralist-Rockefellerian Zbigniew Brzezinski) have been able to act with diplomatic tact. And they should know that alliances are as important as the forces themselves. That is why Russia has won over the Chinese ally, although always with the fear that the latter might absorb it or at any given moment betray it (hypocrisy is our daily bread in international relations).

Zelensky’s Humiliation of the German President

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier maintained for years a cordial relationship with Vladimir Putin, whom he praised, as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Gerhard Schröder and later as Foreign Minister under Angela Merkel. And he also showed his strongest support for the Nord Stream 2 project during those years, until just before the war, something that, after the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine, the head of the German state has admitted was a “clear mistake.” A mistake he maintained for years, almost a decade? After the flurry on Twitter where pictures were posted of Steinmeier hugging Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the president expressed his remorse. For this he was no longer welcome in Kiev, and had to cancel his visit: “It seems that my presence is not wanted.” Later he added, “We have not managed to create a common European home in which Russia is included. We have not managed to include Russia in the overall security architecture. We clung to bridges that Russia no longer believed in, as our partners warned us.” All this shows Germany’s shameful subservience to the United States.

The Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin, Andriy Melnyk, went on to point out that Germany maintains “too many vested interests” in Russia and that Steinmeier is largely to blame, as he spent decades weaving a spider’s web of contacts with Russia (as would Merkel, with whom Putin spoke in Russian and German). “Many of those now in charge in the (German) coalition are involved in this.”

The deputy spokesman of the German government, Wolfgang Büchner, has cooled tempers by understanding “the exceptional situation” Ukraine is going through. And he has indicated that “Germany has been and is one of the strongest defenders of Ukraine… and will continue to be so. The President has a clear and unequivocal position in favor of Ukraine.”

Steinmeier recalled in the German magazine Spiegel that in 2001 Putin gave a speech in German in the Bundestag itself: “The Putin of 2001 has nothing to do with the Putin of 2022 whom we now see as a brutal and entrenched war promoter.” And that he still expected “a remnant of rationality from Vladimir Putin.”


Daniel Miguel López Rodríguez lives in Cortegana (Huelva), Spain. He has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Seville. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Posmodernia.


Featured image: Map of Nord Stream 1 and 2.

Propaganda During Times of War

This article, by Anne Morelli, is here translated for the first time complete. It is based on her monograph, Principes élémentaires de propagande de guerre (utilisables en cas de guerre froide, chaude ou tiède)The Basic Principles of War Propaganda (For Use in Case of War, cold, hot, or warm), which was first published in 2001 and then revised and republished in 2010 to include the war in Afghanistan and Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech.

Morelli’s ten principles, or “commandments” are often accredited to Lord Arthur Ponsonby. Rather, Morelli summarized Ponsonby’s work, Falsehood in War-Time to formulate them.

The current Russian-Ukrainian conflict is just the latest iteration of the immense reach of war propaganda to fashion consent, in the form of ready sacrifice of blood and treasure.


Nearly a century ago, a British diplomat who had observed firsthand the creation of anti-German information in British government offices described these counterfeiting procedures at work during the First World War. This book by Arthur Ponsonby explained the basic mechanisms of wartime propaganda. However, these principles are not about the First World War—they were applied in all open conflicts, and also in the Cold War. They form the basis of the information war which is essential, more so today than in yesteryears, to win public opinion to a cause.

Ponsonby’s Ten Commandments

The principles identified by Ponsonby can be easily stated as ten “commandments.” I will state them here, and we will see for each of them to what extent they have been applied by NATO’s propaganda services.

  1. We do not want war
  2. The other side is solely responsible for the war
  3. The enemy has the face of the devil (or in the order of “ugly”)
  4. The real aims of the war must be masked under noble causes
  5. The enemy knowingly commits atrocities. If we commit blunders, they are unintentional
  6. We suffer very few losses. The enemy’s losses are enormous
  7. Our cause is sacred
  8. Artists and intellectuals support our cause
  9. The enemy uses illegal weapons
  10. Those who question our propaganda are traitors

1. We Do Not Want War

Arthur Ponsonby had early noticed that the statesmen of all countries, before declaring war or at the very moment of this declaration, always solemnly assured as a preliminary that they did not want war. War and its procession of horrors are rarely popular a priori, and it is therefore fashionable to present oneself as peace-loving.

During the war against Yugoslavia, we heard NATO leaders claim to be pacifists. If all the heads of state and government are motivated by a similar desire for peace, one can of course wonder innocently why, sometimes (often), wars break out all the same. But the second principle of war propaganda immediately answers this objection: for we have been forced to wage war; the opposing side began it; we are obliged to react, as self-defense, or to honor our international commitments.

2. The Other Side is Solely Responsible for the War

Ponsonby noted this paradox of the First World War, which can also be found in many previous wars: each side claimed to have been forced to declare war to prevent the other from setting the planet on fire. Each government would loudly declare the aporia that sometimes war is necessary to end wars. That time it would be the last war, “der des der” [last of the last].

The most relentless warmongers therefore try to pass themselves off as lambs and shift the guilt of the conflict onto their enemy. They usually succeed in persuading public opinion (and perhaps in persuading themselves) that they are in a state of self-defense.

I will not attempt to probe the purity of either side’s intentions. I am not trying to find out who is lying or telling the truth. My only purpose is to illustrate the principles of propaganda, unanimously used, and in the case of this second principle (“it is the other who wanted the war”), it is obvious that it has been applied many times during the NATO war against Yugoslavia.

On that occasion, European governments, slightly embarrassed by public opinion to be dragged into a conflict about which European parliaments had not been consulted, despite the constitutional obligation, in several countries, that such consultation take place, widely used in their propaganda the argument of the obligation in which the European countries found themselves to join the war.

Thus, in 1999, Christian Lambert, head of the cabinet of the Belgian Minister of Defense, replied to students who asked him why Belgium participated in the bombing of Yugoslavia, that it was an obligation for our country, by virtue of its membership in NATO. This answer was totally classical at that time, but did not correspond to reality. There would have been an obligation for European countries to participate in the war, if a NATO state had been attacked, but this was obviously not the case in the Yugoslavian war.

During this same war, the principle of “he started it” was in fact very widely applied by Western propaganda, and in particular in a form that Ponsonby had already pointed out: the enemy despises and underestimates our strength; we will no longer be able to remain on the sidelines; we will have to show him our strength.

Western propaganda in 1999 thus stressed that the Yugoslavs defied NATO and pushed it to respond with violence. Thus, the Brussels daily Le Soir wrote on January 18, 1999: “NATO finds itself challenged by astonishing cynicism. Will the world’s leading armed power be able to justify its wait-and-see attitude for long?”

NATO also claimed that it was reacting to a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” by the Serbs against the Albanians in Kosovo. With the passage of time, however, the international experts of the OSCE confirm the opposite thesis: when NATO began bombing Yugoslavia on March 24, Belgrade reacted with a systematic campaign of violence against the Albanian majority in Kosovo. Before March 24, police violence against Kosovo Albanians had been isolated; it was not “ethnic cleansing.”

But in order to convince Western public opinion of the validity of the bombing of Yugoslavia, it was necessary to make people believe that the war was a retaliatory one. It was the enemy who had to bear the full responsibility for the war, and more personally its leader. The war was the fault of Milosevic who, in his intransigence, refused Western proposals for peace in Rambouillet. The Franco-Belgian weekly Le Vif-Express ran this headline: “The dictator of Belgrade has a crushing responsibility in the misfortunes of the Serbian and Albanian people.” The insistence on the person of the leader of the enemy camp is not a coincidence. Ponsonby’s third principle insists on the need to personify the enemy in the person of its leader.

3. The Enemy has the Face of the Devil

It is not possible to hate a whole people globally. It is therefore effective to concentrate this hatred of the enemy on the opposing leader. The enemy thus has a face, and this face is obviously odious. One did not only wage war against the Krauts, the Japs, but more precisely against the Kaiser, Mussolini, Hitler, Saddam or Milosevic. This odious character always conceals the diversity of the population he leads and where the simple citizen may yield his alter egos.

In order to weaken the opposing cause, it is necessary to present its leaders as incapable, at the very least, and to cast doubt on their reliability and integrity. But, as far as possible, it is necessary to demonize this enemy leader, to present him as a madman, a barbarian, an infernal criminal, a butcher, a disturber of peace, an enemy of humanity, a monster. And the purpose of war is to capture him. In some cases, this portrait of our enemy may seem justified, but we must not lose sight of the fact that this monster is most of the time very approachable before the conflict and even in some cases after.

Since the Second World War, Hitler has been considered such a paradigm of evil, that any enemy leader must be compared to him. This was of course the case with Stalin, Mao or Kim Il Sung; but even more recently, all the “villains in service” have also had to bear the same comparison. It is no different with Milosevic, whom the Italian weekly L’Espresso presented on its cover under the title “Hitler-Sevic,” with one half of the face corresponding to Hitler’s face and the other to Milosevic’s.

Following the same script, and at the same time, Le Vif-Express presented, at the time of the first bombings of Yugoslavia, a very dark cover, displaying the left half of Milosevic’s face and on the right the title “L’effroyable [The Appaling] Milosevic.” Inside the magazine, in text supported by grim and worrying photos of the Yugoslav leader, we learned that Milosevic’s capacity for trouble-making was far from being exhausted. The man who, three years earlier had raised his glass with Chirac and Clinton, during the peace agreements of Bosnia, signed in Paris, was now a neurotic whose two parents and even his maternal uncle had committed suicide, obvious symptoms of a hereditary mental imbalance.

The Vif-Express did not quote any speech, any writing of the master of Belgrade, but simply noted his abnormal mood swings, his explosions of anger, sickly and brutal: When he got angry, his face became twisted. Then, instantly, he could recover his composure. His wife was pushy, ambitious and unbalanced, whose psychological problems dated back to the fact that she was acknowledged late by her father. And the weekly concluded: Slobo and Mira are not a couple; they are a criminal association.

The technique of demonizing the enemy leader is effective and will probably continue to be applied for a long time. The reader and the citizen need clearly identified “good guys” and “bad guys,” and the most simplistic way to do this is to call the “bad guy” a new Hitler. Anyone who might not necessarily defend him, but even doubt that he is the precise incarnation of evil, is immediately disqualified by this comparison.

4. The Real Aims of the War must be Masked under Noble Causes

Ponsonby had noted for the 1914-1918 war that one never spoke, in the official texts of belligerents, of the economic or geopolitical objectives of the conflict. Not a word was said officially about the colonial aspirations, for example, that Great Britain expected and which would be fulfilled by an Allied victory. Officially, on the Anglo-French side, the goals of the First World War were summarized in three points:

  • to crush militarism
  • to defend small nations
  • to prepare the world for democracy

These objectives, which are very honourable, have since been copied almost verbatim on the eve of each conflict, even if they do not fit in with the real objectives.

In the case of NATO’s war against Yugoslavia, we find the same discrepancy between the official and undeclared goals of the conflict. Officially, NATO intervened to preserve the multi-ethnic character of Kosovo, to prevent the mistreatment of minorities, to impose democracy and to put an end to the dictator. It was to defend the sacred cause of human rights. The war did not need to end even to realize that none of these objectives were met; that we were far from a multi-ethnic society; and that violence against minorities is a daily occurrence—but the economic and geopolitical goals of the war, which had never been mentioned, had indeed been achieved.

Thus, without having officially having claimed it, NATO’s sphere of influence had been significantly enlarged in Southeast Europe. The Atlantic Organization thus established itself in Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo, regions that were previously “resistant” to its installation.

Moreover, from an economic point of view, for Yugoslavia, which was “resistant” to the installation of a pure and simple market economy and which still functioned with a large public market, it was “proposed” in Rambouillet that the economy of Kosovo should function according to the principles of the free market and be open to the free circulation of…capital, including that of international origin.

One might innocently ask what connection there can be between the defense of oppressed minorities and the free movement of capital, but the first type of discourse obviously conceals less avowed economic goals. Thus, 12 large American companies, including Ford Motor, General Motors and Honeywell, sponsored the 50th anniversary summit of NATO in Washington, in the spring of 1999. Some thought that this was a totally disinterested move, while others thought that it was a “give and take,” and that the bombing of Yugoslavia, by destroying the country’s socialist economy, made room for the multinationals that had long dreamed of setting up a large construction site and doing good business there.

NATO spokesman Jamie Shea announced that the cost of the military operation against Yugoslavia would be more than offset by the longer-term benefits that the markets could realize. From September 3, 1999, the Deutsche Mark became the official currency in Kosovo, and the Zastava car factory in Kragujevac, which I had seen in May destroyed by the NATO strike of April 9, was snapped up by Daewoo in July.

The real aims of the war were perhaps not totally humanitarian, but the main thing was to make people believe that they were, at the time of the launching of the operations, when public opinion doubted the validity of this attack. The public was persuaded that they had to intervene against “bandits”, “criminals”, “assassins.”

This is also one of the basic principles of war propaganda: the war must be presented as a conflict between civilization and barbarism. To do this, it is necessary to persuade the public that the enemy systematically and voluntarily commits atrocities, while our side can only commit involuntary blunders..

5. The Enemy Knowingly Commits Atrocities. If We Commit Blunders, They are Unintentional

Stories of atrocities committed by the enemy are an essential part of war propaganda. This is not to say, of course, that atrocities do not occur during wars. On the contrary, murder, armed robbery, arson, looting and rape seem to be commonplace in all circumstances of war and the practice of all armies, from those of antiquity to the wars of the 20th century. What is specific to war propaganda, however, is to make people believe that only the enemy is accustomed to these acts, while our own army is at the service of the population, even the enemy, and is loved by them. Deviant criminality becomes the symbol of the enemy army, composed essentially of lawless brigands.

During the First World War, the Germans accused the Belgian and French “francs-tireurs” of the worst atrocities who, flouting the laws of war, treacherously attacked German soldiers and deceived them by their ruses, as for example by offering them coffee with strychnine. On the Belgian and Anglo-French side, the rumor that the Germans had systematically cut off the hands of Belgian babies circulated non-stop.

Moreover, the fear of the Belgian population, following these rumors, triggered an unprecedented exodus of refugees. One million three hundred thousand Belgians left their homes at the time of the German invasion in 1914. This exodus of “poor Belgian refugees” and the imaginary episode of Belgian babies with their hands cut off were used to the full extent by Allied propaganda to bring hesitant countries, such as Italy, into its camp.

During the war against Yugoslavia, the propaganda technique was obviously similar. Before the start of the bombing, William Walker circulated the news that the Yugoslav police had massacred civilians in Racak in January 1999, and it was officially announced in the Western media that the Serbs were carrying out systematic ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The figures quoted at the time spoke of 500,000 victims of “genocide,” most of whom were buried in mass graves. Some commentators even suggested that bodies were burned in former industrial sites, which obviously evoked Nazi crematoria.

It is now known that in Racak, it was KLA troops (and not civilians) who were decimated. French troops finally invalidated the hypothesis of cremations in industrial vats; and, after long and meticulous research, Spanish forensic scientists have estimated the number of people killed in Kosovo at a maximum of 2,500, on both sides and including individual deaths for which no one can be accused.

Even the American weekly Newsweek headlined, after the end of the bombing, “Macabre mathematics: the count of atrocities decreases.” But it didn’t matter at that point because the war was over. The official lies had mobilized public opinion at the right time to gain its approval and we could turn to more serious assessments.

In the autumn of 1999, it was also possible for Western journalists to explain how they had been manipulated by KLA agents to broadcast “bogus” testimonies on television. For example, the journalist Nancy Durham, working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), whose moving report on the murder of an 8-year-old Albanian girl, with the testimony of her older sister, was shown on more than ten channels—and later it was revealed that she had been deceived by her Albanian informers. But she was refused a correction that demonstrated the lie.

As for the mass graves and concentration camps, the terms seem in retrospect to be inadequate to the reality. In the spring of 1999, there were obviously murders, looting, torture and burning of Albanian houses. But one “forgets” to highlight with the same acuteness the same atrocities committed from the summer onwards on Serbs, Bosnians, Roma and other non-Albanians. Their exodus was passed over in silence, whereas the images of Albanian refugees from Kosovo and their reception abroad had been the subject of entire television programs. This is because the fifth principle of war propaganda is that only the enemy commits atrocities. Our side can only commit “mistakes.”

6. We Suffer very few Losses. The Enemy’s Losses are Enormous

During the Battle of Britain in 1940, the British greatly “overestimated” the number of German planes shot down by British fighter and the D.C.A. The Nazis, on the other hand, tried as long as possible to disguise their defeat on the Eastern Front and proclaimed resounding losses for the Soviets, without mentioning their own losses.

This old tactic was also used in the war against Yugoslavia. The West claimed to have zero losses on its side and inflicted huge military losses on the Yugoslav army. Thus, to justify the usefulness of the strikes, Western propaganda spoke of hundreds of Yugoslav tanks being put out of action. A year after the war, Newsweek was able to admit that only fourteen Yugoslav tanks had been hit by the 1999 air strikes.

7. Our Cause is Sacred

God’s support for a cause is always an important asset, and for as long as religions have existed, we have happily killed each other in the name of God. War propaganda must obviously make public opinion believe that “God is on our side;” or, at the least, ecclesiastics must give their support to the war by declaring it “just.” Let us remember that the good St. Bernard exhorted the knights of Christ to work for Christ by killing infidels. “Got mit uns” was the slogan displayed by the German soldiers of the First World War on their belts. This slogan was answered by the English “God save the King,” while the Cardinal Primate of Belgium, Cardinal Mercier, in his pastoral letter, “Patriotisme et endurance” (Patriotism and Endurance) did not hesitate to proclaim that the Belgian soldiers, dying in the fight against Germany, redeemed their souls and secured a place in heaven.

In the NATO war against Yugoslavia, while some French and American bishops spoke out against the use of force, others justified the bombing. Thus, Archbishop Jacques Delaporte of Cambrai, president of the Justice and Peace Commission of the French episcopate, approved in the pages of Le Monde of the air strikes as an ethically necessary action, while Archbishop Miloslav Vlik of Prague justified NATO’s intervention by relying on the doctrine of the Church: The international community is not only authorized, but also obliged to prevent the murder of the Kosovars and to restore their right to return to their homeland. Such positions obviously legitimized the “regularity” of the use of violence against Yugoslavia in the eyes of Western public opinion.

8. Artists and Intellectuals Support our Cause

During the First World War, with a few rare exceptions, intellectuals massively supported their own side. Each belligerent could largely count on the support of painters, poets, musicians who supported, by initiatives in their field, the cause of their country.

In Great Britain, King Albert’s book brought together the propaganda work of painters and engravers who “launched” the glorious image of King Albert, King Knight. In France, the caricaturists Poulbot and Roubille put their talent at the service of the Fatherland. In Belgium, the artists Ost and Raemaekers specialized in the making of tragic images evoking the martyrdom of Belgian refugees or the heroic image of the Fatherland. In Italy, the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio was the champion of such action. In Germany, in October 1914, 93 intellectuals, including the physicist Max Planck, the Nobel Prize winner and philologist von Willamovitz, the historian G. von Harnack and many professors of Catholic theology, signed a manifesto in support of their country’s cause and the honor of their army, which, according to this manifesto, was the victim of odious slander.

For the NATO war against Yugoslavia, it is no longer a matter of composing beautiful heroic music or making moving drawings. But the caricaturists are largely put to work to justify the war and to depict the “butcher” and his atrocities, while other artists work, camera in hand, to produce edifying documentaries on the refugees, always carefully taken from Albanian ranks, and chosen as much as possible in relation to the public to which they are addressed, such as that beautiful blond child with a nostalgic look, supposed to evoke Albanian victims.

Almost all the French intellectuals followed the official position of their government with articles of support in the press and interviews in the media. Such was the case—obviously—of the “philosopher” Bernard -Henri Lévy, being intervieed throughout the war on various French radio channels and in the newspaper Le Monde to justify the bombardments against Yugoslavia. But many other French “intellectuals” (Pascal Bruckner, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Didier Daeninckx, Jean Daniel, André Glucksmann, Philippe Herzog, the geographer Yves Lacoste) showed the same political servility.

9. The Enemy uses Illegal Weapons

There is nothing like affirming the deceitfulness of the enemy in war propaganda by assuring that he fights with “immoral” and condemnable weapons. Even if the basic idea is absurd—that there is a “noble” way of waging war with “chivalrous” weapons, which is obviously our way, and a barbaric way of waging war with “savage” weapons, which is that of our enemy.

During the First World War, and the controversy is on-going as to who, France or Germany, started to use asphyxiating gases. Each belligerent put off the sad priority of this use onto the enemy, thus assuring that he himself only “copied” the enemy’s weapons by obligation.

On September 1, 1939, during his speech in the Reichstag, announcing the invasion of Poland, Hitler himself stated that he had humanitarian concerns regarding the use of weapons. He would have tried to limit armaments, to suppress certain weapons, to exclude certain methods of warfare that he considered incompatible with the law of nations.

During the Korean War, it was the communist camp that accused the United States of waging germ warfare, which was far from being proven.

During NATO’s war against Yugoslavia, this old principle of war propaganda, noted by Ponsonby, was reused. Indeed, when the Yugoslavs revealed in June 1999 the use by NATO of depleted uranium weapons, with immeasurable human and ecological consequences, it was not necessary to wait long for the response. By August 1999, the Western media claimed that the Yugoslavs had used chemical weapons in Kosovo, thereby transgressing the rules of “civilized” war.

10. Those who Question our Propaganda are Traitors

Ponsonby’s last principle is that those who do not participate in the official propaganda should be ostracized and suspected of intelligence with the enemy.

During the First World War, pacifists of all countries had already learned the hard way that neutrality was not possible in wartime. He who is not with us is against us. Any attempt to question the accounts of the propaganda services was immediately condemned as unpatriotic or, better still, as treason.

During the war against Yugoslavia, the same scenario took place in the West. NATO’s media tactic was to produce daily news that was taken up by the soldier-journalists. Annoying opponents were systematically dismissed, with the exception of a few open forums that were not very well attended, serving as an alibi to show the pluralism of information.

When the “genocide” of the Kosovo Albanians was announced, for example, anyone who expressed doubts about the extent of this phenomenon was called a “revisionist,” a term that carries a lot of weight, since it is generally used to designate those who deny that Nazism organized the systematic extermination of the Jews.

In France, it was the Régis Debray affair that crystallized passions. On his return from Kosovo, Debray contested, in a letter to the President of the Republic Jacques Chirac, the reality of “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo.

Immediately the media, led by Bernard-Henri Lévy, author of a response entitled “Farewell to Régis Debray,” organized a public lynching. Daniel Schneidermann wrote that Debray “slapped the refugees from a distance;” Pierre Georges called him a “false journalist,” “burdened by his prejudices,” “ridiculously naïve” and said that he had accumulated “elementary errors” and produced “a fragmented and totally questionable account.” Alain Joxe, declared him an “international cretin,” in league with the ideas of Milosevic and an accomplice of the Serbian fascist regime against which the U.C.K. fought “practically without weapons.” At this point, some cleverly recalled that Régis Debray was a former companion of Che Guevara. Regarded now as a revisionist, the accusation of being a red-brown traitor became clear. In times of war, asking questions is heretical.

The weekly magazine L’Evénement never hesitated to publicly denounce, to the opprobrium those that it denounced, “Milosevic’s accomplices,” and whose photos it published. Meshed together in this camp of the “traitors” were the historian Max Gallo, the Abbé Pierre, Monseigneur Gaillot, General Gallois, the film director Carlos Saura, the singer Renaud, the playwright Harold Pinter and the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. For being suspicious of the official propaganda, they were accused by the Parisian weekly of having “chosen to brandish the great Serbian banner,” of having gone over to the enemy.

Conclusion

As we can see from these examples, the ten “commandments” of war propaganda described by Ponsonby have lost none of their relevance in almost a century. Have they been applied intuitively by NATO propaganda officers or by following the grid that we ourselves have followed? It is always risky to think that propaganda is built by systematically staging it, according to a meticulous plan; and one would rather believe that the possibility of improvement has criss-crossed the old Ponsonby principles.

However, one should not forget that the Nato spokesman who orchestrated all the propaganda for the war against Yugoslavia was Jamie Shea, who was not an uneducated military man. A graduate of Lincoln College, Oxford, he looked at the role of intellectuals in the First World War as his final thesis. His academic perseverance was crowned by a socially enviable position as head of NATO’s propaganda services. Thus, it is also safe to assume that Jamie Shea learned, as my Historical Criticism students do every year, the basic principles of war propaganda and carefully and systematically applied them in the propaganda campaign he was asked to orchestrate.


Anne Morelli is a Belgian historian at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).


Featured image: American propaganda poster by Harry Ryle Hopps, published 1917.

Is Putin Crazy?

Much is being said in the Western press about the alleged insanity of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, and some have even said outright that the Russian leader is “a psychopath.” To reduce the very complex reality of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict (which is much more than a clash between Russia and Ukraine) to the psychological anxieties of a single individual (namely, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin) is to stupidly block out understanding and not to attend to the dialectical and pluralistic (not Manichean dualistic or harmonistic) webs of the present geopolitics at work. Such diagnoses only show that the person who affirms them is a prisoner of the crudest and silliest psychologism.

One of those who say that Putin is mad is the fervent Russianophobic Judeo-Magyarist-American globalist Esperantist George Soros: “Putin seems to have literally gone mad. He has decided to punish Ukraine for standing up to him and seems to be acting without restraint. He is throwing the entire Russian army into battle and ignoring all the rules of war.”

Says the tycoon who with his foundations is spreading truly delusional ideologies. Since we avoid psychologism at all costs, we prefer to speak of objective madness (see, Gustavo Bueno).

The oligarch who was once the richest man in Russia, an opponent of Putin who spent ten years in jail for tax evasion, although he denied it, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, affirmed from his London exile that this war is the result of an “emotional decision by Putin,” and that the leader shows “signs of senile paranoia” because he is a “madman in the clinical sense.”

But let’s look at the position of the experts, and not of the talk show hosts on duty who start talking like real specialists on any subject without having any idea of what they are talking about (get rid of the vain talk show hosts, we should add, paraphrasing Paul of Tarsus).

The president of the Spanish Society of Criminology and Forensic Sciences (SCEE), Carlos López Gobernado, states categorically: “Without any doubt, Putin is not a psychopath. He has a very clear mind… He is not. He knows perfectly well what he wants and he wants it for his country. Rather than psychopathic traits, I see geopolitical motives. Russia wants its space at the international level. There are supranational interests at stake here. More than personality conflicts, I find questions of statesmanship and geopolitical power politics.” To paraphrase the vile Clinton, “it’s geopolitics, stupid.”

Henry Kissinger, a professional politician who has spent more than fifty years keeping an eye on geopolitical entanglements, has gone so far as to say, “For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.”

Putin could not have remained in power for 20 years if he simply and despotically offered tyranny and repression to his fellow citizens. To think of such “tyranny” is to offend the intelligence of Russians, given that Putin is one of the most popular politicians in the world (probably the most popular).

As acknowledged in Foreign Affairs, in a May/June 2021 article by Professor of Post-Soviet Foreign Policy at Columbia University Timothy Frye: Over the past 20 years, Putin’s approval ratings have averaged a remarkable 74 percent, and there is little reason to believe that Russians are lying to pollsters in large numbers. But these high approval ratings were largely driven by the economic boom that doubled the size of Russia’s economy between 1998 and 2008 and the unique foreign policy success of the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Since 2018, Putin’s popularity has wavered. His approval ratings remain in the mid-60s, but Russians express much less confidence in him than in the past. In a November 2017 poll, when asked to name five politicians they trust, 59 percent of respondents named Putin; in February 2021, only 32 percent did so. During the same interval, support for a fifth Putin term fell from 70 percent to 48 percent, with 41 percent of Russians surveyed now saying they would prefer he step down.

With a month of war in Ukraine, we read in the foreign press (it seems that in the mainstream Spanish press, with some exceptions, we won’t read that) that Putin’s popularity has risen to 83%.

Be that as it may, it is an insult to the intelligence of the Russian people that they have trusted for so long a stupid, crazy man, or a psychopath who is willing to press, simply out of sheer evil, the nuclear button. Or that among his favorite hobbies is genocide. Lately this word the mainstream media writes and pronounces in Spain with much joy, and anything or any war crime is mistaken for genocide. But such a fine distinction is not something that is habitually made by the ignorant masses.

One must keep in mind that Putin inherited a devastated, shattered Russia, with the vast majority of its population demoralized by living in misery after a decade of the collapse and ruin of the Soviet Union (with the war in Chechnya fueling the misery). Putin’s governments have been gradually reversing the situation. It is as if his enemies never forgave him.

It is very simple-minded and typical of Western journalists, who are functionally illiterate in the noble art of geopolitics, along with the pretensions of pantologists and experts in universality, to believe that an overly prudent politician like Vladimir Putin (as he has shown during his twenty years in office, from 2008 to 2012 as Prime Minister) would ever make such a mistake of not foreseeing the consequences of the Western sanctions (i.e., those of NATO plus Japan and Australia) and that he has simply “lost his mind” (such is the “rigor” with which the matter has been dismissed in mainstream media).

But the truth is that neither China, nor Mexico, nor Brazil, nor India, nor Iran, nor South Africa and other countries (actually most of the world’s states) have imposed sanctions on Russia, which together with China has been preparing since 2015 for the de-dollarization of their economies, while putting in place parallel systems to SWIFT, such as the Chinese Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS, for its acronym in English). “The CIPS system, which some Russian banks already joined in 2019, as confirmed by Vladimir Shapovalov, head of the Bank of Russia, could become strong enough to allow the two neighboring powers to bypass the Western system.”

The US and EU plan is to isolate Russia with sanctions so that the oligarchs, seeing how their businesses are being destroyed, will rebel against Putin. But won’t Putin have everything neatly wrapped up and firmly wrapped up?

And while the war is raging in Ukraine, the EU pays Russia about a billion euros a day for its energy (although it has demanded to be paid in rubles, which Russia now wants to back in gold, which could change the rules of the geo-economic game). The gas pipelines have been operating normally. Russia is punished with sanctions but at the same time the war is financed by buying Russia’s gas. What will not be bought in peacetime? Russia is an energy giant that Europe can hardly do without. Russia is not to be scorned, even if this is shocking to democratic and liberal fundamentalism. At the Antalya Diplomatic Forum held on March 11, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, admitted that sanctions against Russia “have a very high cost for the whole world.”

In the face of Western sanctions Russia could count on BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), an international body that was launched in 2008-2009 and which—as the US Council on Foreign Relations knows—” BRICS has already become a platform for efforts to build an alternative financial system, with the group’s development bank raising funds in local currencies as part of its goal to ‘break away from the tyranny of hard currencies.'”

As far back as 2019 the RAND Corporation report said, “Imposing deeper trade and financial sanctions would also likely degrade the Russian economy, especially if such sanctions are comprehensive and multilateral. Thus, their effectiveness will depend on the willingness of other countries to join in such a process. But sanctions come with costs and, depending on their severity, considerable risks.”

Putin did not get along entirely badly with Donald Trump. In the four years of the Orange Man sitting in the Oval Office, the US-Russia relations were very different from how they were with Obama or how they are now with Biden (who called Putin a “murderer”—as if the United States, and as if the Obama Administration of which he was Vice President, did not have a bloodthirsty career). Trump’s return to the White House could appease relations with Russia but strain them with China. And after the Ukrainian war, Trump would have a hard time winning the favor of a Russia already very much devoted to China.

As written in Foreign Affairs in November/December 2021, in an article by Fiona Hill, Robert Bosch Senior Fellow at the Center on the United States and Europe in the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, Putin shared many of the same enemies as Trump: “cosmopolitan, liberal elites; the American financier, philanthropist, and open society promoter George Soros; and anyone trying to expand voting rights, improve electoral systems, or cast a harsh light on corruption in their countries’ respective executive branches…. Trump railed against a mythological American deep state, whereas Putin—who spent decades as an intelligence operative before ascending to office—is a product of Russia’s very real deep state. Unlike Trump, who saw the U.S. state apparatus as his enemy and wanted to rule the country as an outsider, Putin rules Russia as a state insider. Also unlike Trump, Putin rarely dives into Russia’s social, class, racial, or religious divisions to gain political traction. Instead, although he targets individuals and social groups that enjoy little popular support, Putin tends to promote a single, synthetic Russian culture and identity to overcome the domestic conflicts of the past that destabilized and helped bring down both the Russian empire and the Soviet Union. That Putin seeks one Russia while Trump wanted many Americas during his time in office is more than just a difference in political styles: it is a critical data point. It highlights the fact that a successful U.S. policy approach to Russia will rest in part on denying Putin and Russian operatives the possibility to exploit divisions in American society.”

The Spanish bourgeois press, especially that of the “global daily” (globalist), maintains that Putin fears that next to the Russian border the “evolution of a free and thriving society” is being forged and “not any of the weapons that the Central European countries may have on their territory. None of them is a military danger to Russia. They are all, and Ukraine in particular, a danger as an example that freedom can be successful and not necessarily be a source of violence and chaos as happened in Yeltsin’s Russia and which is the scarecrow that Putin uses to defend his despotism. If the Ukrainian brethren can have a democratic and free country that works, there is a danger that the Russian brethren will conclude that they can, too. That is what Putin fears. That is why he says he is going to destroy the anti-Russia that the West has put in front of his door. What he has in front of his door is not against Russia, but it is a society that is against tyranny, and he feels, with much logic, very affected.”

In order to hold up the corrupt Ukrainian oligarchy as an example of a “free and thriving society” that “goes against tyranny,” it is necessary to have a face not made of reinforced concrete, but of titanium diboride. But this is how they tend to spin it in the once “Independent Morning Newspaper” but now “The Global Newspaper” (globalist, very globalist). This is the same media that published Zelensky’s corruption when he was in the Pandora Papers: “In March 2019, a month before winning the elections, Zelenski transferred his shares to Sergiy Shefir, a close friend and business partner who later became one of his main political advisors in Kiev. Neither the minister nor his advisers have responded to requests for comment.”

In the other bourgeois press, the liberal jim-dandy, the one that sees communists as the child in The Sixth Sense saw the dead. We are referring to the pie-in-the-sky Libertad Digital; and they just cannot stop writing nonsense wholesale: “Putin is the leader of a gigantic terrorist gang, president of a world terrorist power, called Russia. A mediocre nostalgic with nuclear arsenal and lack of scruples. We have been informed by many Russians who worked for him, who brought him to power and who risked their lives or freedom denouncing him. For nothing?”

A journalist, who is the epitome of being mediocre, calls the greatest statesman of our time “mediocre.” Ignorance has always been very bold.

But the one who takes the cake is the owner of a dog-and-pony show, one Federico Jiménez Losantos, whose comments are laughable. He calls Putin “communist” every other morning (like a mantra). And he pronounces this word with the same insulting tone as progressives pronounce the word “fascist.”

But Putin’s Russia is the country where more churches are being built and where the Christian religion (Orthodox, of course) is making a comeback; where gender ideology and liberal cosmopolitanism are most firmly attacked (Soros cannot enter there—n our country he has even got into the kitchen); where a private sector is becoming more and more influential in its economy; where brands like Zara have hundreds of stores throughout its vast territory; and where the Russian Communist Party is the main force of opposition to United Russia (Putin’s party).

To say that Putin is a communist and that he wants to restore the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is simply supreme ignorance or crude demonizing propaganda, the same as the former COPE announcer does with the USSR and communism in general in his book which is as fat as it is nonsensical, Memoria del comunismo (Memory of Communism). But that, among other things, is what I am here to criticize.

Agapito Maestre, professor of philosophy at the Complutense University of Madrid, is not far behind either, having authored such unreasonable and stupid statements as: “Putin only intends to return to the old and cruel Stalinism. The totalitarian process of Putin’s era is also irreversible: the whole of Russia is already a Gulag. It will continue to stagnate economically, politically and socially.”

It is embarrassing that a philosopher, who even admired Gustavo Bueno during his lifetime and also after his eternal birth, should write such nonsense. You should amend your judgment, Don Agapito, because such statements are typical of the corruption of understanding or of a third-rate sophist.


Daniel Miguel López Rodríguez lives in Cortegana (Huelva), Spain. He has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Seville. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Posmodernia.


Featured image: “Vladimir Putin,” by Kalin Modev; painted in 2015.

Putin and Power

This excerpt is from Putins Macht: Warum Europa Russland braucht (Putin’s Power: Why Europe needs Russia), by Hubert Seipel, who is a well-known German journalist.

But what sets Seipel apart is the fact that he is the only Western journalist to have direct access to President Vladimir Putin. Therefore, his book is filled with great insights into the character, personality and geopolitical thinking of the man who currently leads Russia.

We are very grateful to El Manifesto for the opportunity to present this excerpt.


Learning from Capitalism

For Vladimir Putin, the missile shield is an example of the West’s failure to appreciate the way Russia has peacefully overcome the fall of the Soviet Union. Putin is quick to adapt to the negative historical judgment on “real socialism,” but he still considers that the fall of the Soviet Union was negotiated by its leaders in an unprofessional manner; that the Soviet Union, in December 1991, ceased to exist in less than two weeks after the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus announced its end. A few days later, the flag with the hammer and sickle gave way to that of the tsarist-era double-headed eagle.

When Putin was in charge of the economy of the St. Petersburg executive, he quickly understood that capital, in the era of globalization, does not move easily except in regions where it feels comfortable and secure. Russia had a number of advantages: tax rates were very low, as were wages, and the Russian people, despite miserable living conditions, were peaceful. However, Putin also saw very clearly, during this rapid initiation to capitalism, that millionaires should pay taxes in their country and respect the actions of the state.

But it is not only the feeling of having been abused that angers Putin. The lack of respect for Russia’s vital interests is, for him particularly hurtful, especially when the country shows signs of weakness. Putin confessed to me, during hours of conversation, without taking a breath, except to drink a little vodka, how the strategic configuration of Europe has been modified, without taking into account Russia’s susceptibilities. When the Warsaw Pact collapsed with the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO took the opportunity to develop with expansive madness… Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Baltic States, Romania, Slovakia and finally Croatia and Albania, “when we had been promised, on the occasion of German reunification, that there would be no extension of NATO.”

From Lisbon to Vladivostok

Vladimir Putin’s political objective is to create an economic space from Vladivostok to Lisbon. At the end of November 2009, he chose the Adlon Hotel in Berlin to present his vision, to German businessmen, of a common economic zone, with the European Union. A free trade zone without customs duties, a common industrial policy and the abolition of visas were just a few of Putin’s proposals. Both sides would benefit, including Russia, of course. “Because Russia, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, has not had access to its main export markets. Problems have arisen with transit countries, which have tried to take advantage of their monopoly situation to extract unilateral advantages. This is a source of disputes.”

Putin insisted on a central point in his thinking: “It is of paramount importance that we learn to respect each other’s strategic interests through deeds and not just words.”

Two years later, Putin was still convinced of his proposals. At the end of 2013, in Sochi, he explained to me the reasons for his strategic reflections. “A rapprochement with Europe is not, in principle, bad for us. We have the natural resources and Europe has the know-how. We would both profit in the long term.”

His goal has always been an agreement with the European Union and Ukraine to modify the technical standards of Russia and countries such as Belarus and Ukraine, so that they become compatible with those of the European Union and thus competitive. Leveling the economy—and responding, at the same time, to the expansive policy of the West—is, for him, nothing more than a question of time, equal opportunities and increased investments. This is the reason why Putin insisted on joining the World Trade Organization, which decides by means of its binding international rules what is authorized and what is not. After several decades of arduous negotiations, Russia was able to overcome the obstacles and was admitted as a member in 2012. The EU’s simplistic reaction of rejecting Russian proposals before even examining them provoked his anger. “They have been repeating one thing to us for years: you must not interfere in Ukraine’s affairs. We do not intervene in your relations with China and you should not intervene in our relations with Canada.”

Putin regards the attempt to separate Ukraine economically from Russia as a political maneuver against his country; and the technocratic point of view of Brussels, for which Russia’s relations with Ukraine are of no importance, he sees it as a deliberate strategy. As a political man, he is appalled that initiatives of such importance, with enormous consequences for the neighboring country, can be taken without negotiation, but exclusively bureaucratically. “It is not difficult to realize that our relations with Ukraine are different from those between Brussels and Canada, as these really have no complexity,” Putin laconically lamented.


The Sahel: Setbacks and Insecurity

While all the world is focused on the Russian-Ukrainian war in Ukraine and terrible consequences, calling attention to other regional conflicts might seem diversionary, or even offensive. But the world is a complex and cruel landscape, involving international dynamics and various interest groups which affect the lives of people.

Thus, it is useful to look at the Southern “near abroad” of EU and NATO blocks, where dynamics risk to impact (seriously), with implications for the security of Western states, including military threats, migrations routes, and the energy landscape.

Nine years after the French intervention in Mali, violent extremism continues to spread in the Sahel, showing remarkable resilience, despite efforts to prevent and combat radicalism by local governments and international actors. Jihadism, which seemed to be limited to northern Mali a few years ago, now extends to 75% of its territory, in addition to affecting Burkina Faso and Niger, with an increase, in the Sahel as a whole, of 70% in the number of jihadist actions; and with Burkina Faso in the focus for now, with dangerous and worrying intrusion into Western Guinea Gulf subregion states.

The complicated situation in which the Sahel finds itself, at a time when Operation “Barkhane” is being called to come to an end in 2022, in favour of a new, more modest military deployment, has brough into play various questions about the future of security in the region, where there are emerging more and more problems challenging the confrontation between the Euro-Atlantic economic and security architectures and Russia in primis (and China in the shadows).

Further, to complicate the matter, analysis, approaches, and management, as a caveat, when mentioning the Euro-Atlantic economic and security architectures, there are various imprecisions, given the divergent agendas and erratic priorities of some partners of these coalitions, like Turkey, or strong national interests, like France (reinforced by an exclusive colonial dominance, established in the region in the second half of the 19th century and which ended in the 1960s; and it should be remembered that since those years, French forces have carried out in Africa at least 50 operations, without considering the secret ones, as secrets, are not recorded).

The Current Stage

What will be the consequences of the end of Operation “Barkhane” on regional security? To what extent can regional governments and, more specifically the juntas that govern Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea (and in a limited extent, also Chad) respond to the articulated security challenges? What alternatives or possible solutions meet the growing regional deterioration, at a time when new external stakeholders, such as Russia, are now on the scene, formally and informally (using the infamous contractors of the Wagner group)?

Nine years after the French intervention in Mali, violent extremism continues to spread in the Sahel, showing remarkable resilience, despite prevention and counter-radicalism efforts by local governments and international actors. The weakening of jihadist groups, following the French intervention in January 2013, proved to be short-lived and the survivors of Operation “Serval,” to which “Barkhane” is the successor, have shown a great ability to recover and adapt quickly to the changing security environment.

In Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger alone, more than 6,200 French military personnel were killed in action. Since 2013, the Sahel is the region where terrorist groups have grown the most, with the Islamic State now replacing the Taliban as the world’s deadliest group and Burkina Faso as the main locus.

Of course, the galaxy of terrorists’ groups is a complex landscape, because of the persistent merging and splitting among its members, as well as allegiance to tribal, ethnic, ideological, and personal elements—all of which makes such groups extremely difficult to track and to identify individuals and trends. As a result, strategical and operational lines, approaches and targets also become difficult to ascertain.

During the early days of Operation “Barkhane” (which began in 2014, and which weakened the presence of French forces in other Francopohone states in the region), jihadist groups, mainly Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), managed to survive, thanks to their “low profile” strategy, through which they concealed themselves among the population, thus eliminating the need for operational structures (“katibas”) that would be too large and therefore easily detected and destroyed by an opposing force which had air assets.

In this way, AQIM, supported by the Malian jihadists group, Ansar Dine, gradually reorganised itself to operate throughout Mali, and even extended its actions to Burkina Faso and Niger. Thus, from 40 attacks recorded in 2014, Mali experienced 98 the following year, and 157 in 2016, becoming progressively more complex as armed groups began to operate south of Niger, as evidenced by the spectacular attacks on the Radisson hotel in Bamako (20 November 2015), Ouagadougou (15 January 2016) and Grand-Bassam in Côte d’Ivoire (13 March 2016), all involving Western citizens as targets.

The katibas that moved around AQIM were soon joined by Amadou Kouffa’s jihadist group, Macina Liberation Front (FLM), a group that abruptly emerged in January 2015, with the aim of expanding jihad to southern Mali (and restoring the empire of Macina, which existed from 1818 to 1862). This group, which recruits among the Fulani populations of Mali, trapped between the Tuareg and Malian farmers in the south who reproach them for their pastoralist traditions, demonstrated its operational capacity by taking control, albeit temporarily, of the town of Fakola in the SW of Mali in June 2015.

In March 2017, all Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadist groups reunited in a tactical alliance, self-labelled, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM), which in turn was the result of the artificial merger of historical terrorist groups Ansar Dine, AQIM, the Macina Liberation Front (FLM) and Al Mourabitoun (a jihadist group created in August 2013 and whose leader, the Algerian Mojtar Belmojtar became notorious in January 2013 with his attack on the Tiguentourine/In Amenas gas facility in Algeria). The new JNIM leader became Iyad ag-Ghali, the head of Ansar Dine, who led the 1990 rebellion of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MPLA) against the Malian government and who is known in the West as an intermediary in the liberation of European citizens in the first decade of the century.

The aim of this merger, despite heavy personal rivalries, was to increase the synergy of their actions, by sharing networks, experiences, and results, but also by following al-Qaeda’s strategy, they distanced themselves from the other branch of international jihadism represented by the Islamic State (a.k.a. Daesh), which was then emerging strongly in the Sahel. JNIM used the strategy of presenting itself as a reasonable actor, a promoter of Islamic governance and capable of issuing apologetic statements when civilians were killed, rather than the bloodthirsty terrorists that Daesh fighters were being labelled as. This group emerged as a Sahelian brand of Daesh in the Middle East, adopting the name, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (IS-GS) and established itself in the “Three Borders” region (between Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso), in an area particularly neglected by the Niamey, Bamako, and Ouagadougou governance.

The IS-GS took the oath of allegiance to the Islamic State in May 2015, under the Sahrawi, Adnan Abu Walid al-Saharawi, former spokesman of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA, or MUJAO in French) and former “emir” of Al-Mourabitoun in Mali.

The IS-GS became particularly prominent in sub-Saharan Africa and was characterised by following the most intransigent and ultraviolent tenets of jihadism, becoming the preferred target of Western forces and local states troops. Its fighters were largely from the MUJWA/MUJAO, established in 2011 by the Mauritanian Hamada Ould Kheira, who had left AQIM because of the group’s internal ethnic-tribal antagonism, under the control of Algerian Islamist terrorist chiefs, such as Droukdel and Belmokhtar, while the fighters were mostly black Africans recruited from among the Fulani, Daoussahaks and Gao Moors (all from Mali).

From its stronghold of Ménaka, and strengthened by its local roots and its egalitarian discourse, the MUJWA/MUJAO became known for its campaign of kidnappings and suicide bombings modelled on al-Qaeda. However, MUJWA/MUJAO was faced with a strong internal struggle, with mutual accusations by Algeria and Morocco, which blamed its historical rival to be supporting the group and undermining the regional security to win advantage for their respective regional leadership ambitions.

Of particular interest is also the relationship between IS-GS and the other Islamic State (IS) franchise operating in the Lake Chad region, under the name, Islamic State in the West African Province (ISWAP). This group emerged in 2016 as a splinter group of the Nigerian-based Boko Haram, the most active and lethal group in West Africa, which, by 2019, had killed more than 35,000 people, and originated more than two million of IDPs (Internally Displaced People) and connected the Sahel area with the Islamist insurgency in Chad, northern Cameroon, Niger, and NW Nigeria.

Established in 2002, in the Nigerian state of Borno, and led since 2009 by Abu Bakr Shekau, after the death in police custody of founder Mohammed Yusuf, Boko Haram was characterised by indiscriminate attacks on civilians and spread to neighbouring Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.

In 2015, Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) and the group changed its name to ISWAP. Dut due to his extreme brutality, IS decided to remove him in 2016, appointing Al Barnawi, the founder’s eldest son and until then the group’s spokesman, as his successor; thus, creating two factions: Boko Haram and ISWAP.

Both groups pursued the same aim of creating a Salafist-jihadist caliphate in the Shari’a-ruled Boko Haram’s actions, as opposed to ISWAP’s greater concern of gaining the acceptance of the local population. Their phoenix-like operational trend tells a similar story for both, their greatest strength being their ability to use areas with weak state presence to retreat into and regroup, while using a variety of tactics to maintain the flow of resources that have made them deadly and resilient jihadist groups.

However, Shekau’s death in June 2021, and after the rival splinter group stormed his Sambisa Forest fiefdom, has weakened Boko Haram and facilitated the integration of many of its members into ISWAP.

In terms of the relationship between ISWAP and IS-GS, the two jihadist groups are geographically independent, although IS-GS is technically considered a sub-group of ISWAP, according to the Islamic State’s architecture. ISWAP is particularly active in the Lake Chad Basin region, where it has intensified attacks against security forces since mid-2018, and mainly in Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon; while IS-GS is more confined to the Liptako Gourma region, with operations in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

Another differential aspect of Sahelian jihadism concerns the relationship between JNIM as an Al Qaeda affiliate and IS-GS as an Islamic State affiliate. For several years there existed, in contrast to affiliates in other regions of the world where they operate, a kind of tacit agreement of non-belligerence, and even cooperation between the two in joint raids against shared enemies; this is what came to be known as the “Sahelian anomaly.”

This made it easier for jihadism to expand its range of action in other Sahelian and West African countries since 2017, taking advantage of porous borders were, rural, poor societies, marginalised by their states, lived.
However, in 2019, this pact was broken, and tensions between JNIM and IS-GS became violent in the “Three Borders” area of the Liptako region. The causes of this rupture must be attributed to several factors; the main one being the ideological hardening of the IS-GS, resulting in its integration into the more radical ISWAP, and the consequent pressure to confront JNIM. To this should be added the tensions that have arisen between the two groups, driven by the growing operational ambitions of the IS-GS, which competes for fighters and resources in the Sahel.

The jihadist threat now look to Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, and Senegal; and although ISIS has been weakened in Mali, through military action by France and its partners and has lost its leader, Adman abu Walis al-Sahrawi, in a spectacular action in September 2021, it continues to seek a foothold in Western Niger and Burkina Faso, even if that means linking up with Boko Haram in Nigeria. The JNIM, whose hatred emir Droukdel was also killed in June 2020 in Southern Algeria, is reportedly trying to strengthen itself in the Azawad region by taking advantage of the lack of reaction from Algeria and in central Mali, where it is forced to coexist with nationalist groups in the Azawad.

To complete the picture of armed (and institutional) threats in the Sahel, there is also the existence of the separatist groups in northern Mali, signatories to the 2015 Algiers agreements (many other such agreements were signed as well before, but without any real impact on the tribalism-separatistm trends of the region), agreements that were supposed to guarantee peace and reconciliation.

These armed groups have formed a kind of parallel army in the Kidal region, dominated by the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), which is an alliance of rebel groups, created in Mali, in October 2014, with the aim setting up a new Touareg-dominated state, named “Azawad,” which would include the northern area of Mali, SE Algeria, West Niger, and SW Libya).

These groups came together in September 2021 to form the “Permanent Strategic Framework” (CSP), which is dominated by Tuareg and Arab nomads, and where Mali’s ajority communities (all Black Africans, like Songhaïs, Peuls, Bellahs) are poorly represented.

Foreign and Regional Military Assets and Actions

As far as Western and Sahelian government military forces are concerned, it is undeniable to admit that, from a tactical point of view, important successes have been achieved in recent years. Operations against armed terrorist groups during 2020 and 2021 have resulted in the targeted elimination of some of the most important jihadist leaders, including Abdelmalek Droukdel (head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM), Bah Ag Moussa (one of the leaders of JNIM), Abu Walid al-Saharoui (head of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, IS-GS), or Abu al-Maghrebi (religious leader of JNIM).

These favourable results on the ground have not, however, prevented the spread of jihadist violence to southern Mali and Burkina Faso and to western Niger, and even attacks in Burkina Faso’s border areas, with countries in the Gulf of Guinea. This was the main reason for the double military coup in Mali in August 2020 and May 2021, and the coup d’état in Burkina Faso in January 2022.

The deterioration of the situation led French President Emmanuel Macron to decide, after much incertitude and contradictory statements, in early June 2021, to suspend joint operations between French and Malian forces, while assuring that France would remain militarily engaged in the Sahel, but within the framework of an “international alliance associating the states of the region,” a new mission whose precise outline is not clarified.

In fact, this is not a new decision. At the Pau Summit in January 2020, which brought together the G5 Sahel countries (Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad) countries and France, Paris had already expressed its desire to reduce its presence in the Sahel and reiterated the need for African countries to take responsibility for the security of their citizens.

Among the reasons for France’s stance were the frustration over the lack of military and political achievements, the human and financial costs of “Barkhane” and the substantial lack of support from the domestic public opinion, distracted by national economic and social emergencies. However, it was the second coup d’état on 26 May 2021 which ousted interim President Bah Ndaw and made Mali’s hitherto vice-president Assimi Goita as the transitional President, which precipitated the decision to withdraw from Mali, even if not fully completed in the spring of 2022.

The new Malian junta, in a context of growing popular hostility towards the French presence in Mali—the greatest expression of which was the expulsion of the French ambassador in January 2022—demanded the departure of all French and European forces, and the handover of the “Barkhane” bases to the soldiers of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the Malian army, but also to the Russian private security operators (or mercenaries) of the Wagner group who, in early January 2022, settled at the main military base of the operation, in Timbuktu.

Consequently, the French “redeployment” of forces was an implicit recognition that its counterinsurgency strategy was not working (despite a consistent, prolonged but very discrete support from USA), and that the natural consequence was to reduce the number of troops in the “Barkhane” force by half, in a process that was to be completed by the middle of 2023. The military force would thus be reduced from 5,100 to 2,500 French soldiers redeployed outside Mali, mainly in the “Three borders” area in Niger’s territory, and its mission would be exclusively anti-terrorist, aimed at curbing the expansion of jihadist groups towards the south, a trend that has been increasing recently.

This operational redefinition of the framework for French military action implied—along with a commitment to continue fighting terrorism—a significant reduction of its conventional, elite and SOF (Special Operation Forces) units in favour of a greater increase in SF (special forces), as well as a major reliance on air and space assets (fighter, helicopters, UAVs, ISTAR, satellites) to the detriment of ground capabilities, as “force multiplier.”

The increased use of UAVs since late 2019, combined with SF, would support this troop reduction strategy, as they are more effective at eliminating adversaries than ground forces. As a result, UAVs now account for 40% of air strikes, with the result of operations in the area multiplying.

The reduction of French troops in the Sahel will necessarily affect other French operation in the region, namely, Operation “Sabre,” which has been active since 2009. With its operational base in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, Task Force (TF) “Sabre” is composed of 400 French SF troops and has been primarily responsible for the elimination of most high-value targets (HVTs), such as jihadist leaders.

In the new context of French redeployment, France’s organisational and operational autonomy vis-à-vis “Barkhane” risks being affected by the end of this operation. In fact, TF “Sabre” could lose some of its assets if “Barkhane” disappears, to the benefit of the increased power of the new “Takuba” force that, although European, bases its structure to a large extent on the French SF that have defined the ROE (Rules Of Engagement) and operational procedures.

Activated in July 2020 to make up for the shortcomings of the EU’s training mission in Mali (EUTM)—given the impossibility for military trainers of the mission to accompany Malian soldiers during their operations—the “Takuba” force was planned to reach 2,000 combatants, from several European countries, and to take part in counter-insurgency actions, replacing “Operation Barkhane.”

As for “Takuba,” it is important to specify its institutional framework, which in a way, has impacted on its operational capabilities. “Takuba” is activated outside of the EU official defense and security architecture, led by EEAS framework, and it is closer to the scheme of the “coalition of the willing,” which led the establishment of the multinational naval force which operates in the Persian-Arab Gulf, the EMASOH (European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz).

This choice, strongly pushed by France, aimed at having more agile and lethal capabilities of the forces deployed, which by the way, never reached the planned level. Their deployment is an implicit recognition of the inability of French forces to control the vast territory of the Sahel, except temporarily and in specific areas, and of the weakness of local armed forces, especially in Mali. Thus, the constituent purpose of Task Force “Takuba” is to integrate local forces with European SF teams, thereby creating a critical mass of assets capable of defeating any opposing group and better protecting the population. This would obviously not solve the structural problems of local armies, but it would allow them to be more effective on the ground and to quickly do more. And in counter-insurgency warfare, the principle is that hitting the enemy is good, but controlling the terrain is better, with the combination of the two effects producing the best results. This principle works well in theory, but it remains to be seen whether it could yield strategic results in the Sahel scenario.

Moreover, TF “Takuba” is suffering from serious structural problems, stemming from its slow deployment, and the reluctance of some states to participate in it, despite the strong pressure by Paris on its partners. For example, the Danish component was withdrawn from Mali when it arrived, on the grounds of bureaucratic shortcomings, the small number of its components, which did not exceed 800 troops, half of them French, and the fact that they cannot operate in Mali, where the centre the insurgency is located.

Also, it should be remembered that Sweden, few days after the notification from the Bamako authorities to expel the Danes, to avoid a similar humiliating situation which was likely approaching, withdrew its own contingent.

Finally, the “Takuba” concept suffered from the perceptions of many of its potential contributors, reluctant to risk their precious assets of SF, on behalf of France and its benefits, which is not generous in opening economic spaces in what Paris considers an exclusive domain.

As far as training missions are concerned, they remain today the EU’s main and most substantial contribution to security in the Sahel. Although the will of Europe is to strengthen its means and capabilities, to support the security forces of the countries in the region, an objective it considers crucial in increasing the protection of local populations and bringing about stability of the region, its survival will depend, in any case, on whether the necessary conditions are met, as recognised in the EU-AU joint declaration of 17 February 2022, in the side-lines of the 6th EU-AU Summit in Brussels.

These conditions include a strict separation between its activities and those of the Russian group Wagner, which is increasingly active in the Sahel, and a guarantee that EU-trained Malian soldiers will not subsequently join units operating under Wagner’s orders. Despite the lack of consensus on the future of EU operations in Mali, with several member states in favour of suspending the mission, and while others are reluctant to do so, the European Council decided on 12 April of this year to close and withdraw it (EUTM-Mali was activated on February 2013), formalizing and finalizing a long-standing crisis between Brussels (and Paris) and Bamako.

It should be said that despite an important growing in staffing (more than 600 personnel between trainers and support staff), resources, and assets, the EUTM-Mali suffered several problems due to, among others, the existence of non-coordinated training paths between the national teams of trainers. It is useful to be reminded that the other EU-led presence in Mali, EUCAP-Sahel Mali is in limbo; but given the persistent hostility of the Bamako military junta, it will be withdrawing as well.

The other two forces on the ground will not produce tangible results in improving the stability situation, due to a lack of equipment, poor financial means, and poor transnational coordination. The G5 Sahel Joint Force—created in 2017 and officially composed of 5,000 men drawn from the elite units of the armed forces of Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad—is conditioned by the need for greater regional cooperation to prevent each of them pursuing their national interests above all else. Moreover, reliance on the support of other military structures, such as the “Barkhane” force for training and MINUSMA for operational support, does not facilitate operational performance, either.

The G5 Sahel Joint Force was established following the activation, in 2014 of the G5 Sahel, a sub-regional organisation set up to deal with conflict management in the Sahel, when it seemed unlikely. Some analysts were already describing a “security traffic jam” in the region.

This concept emerged when Chad offered, but out of the G5 framework, additional forces, and AU a multinational brigade; the Chadian troops, briefly deployed in the “Three Borders Area” were called back due to the institutional crisis following the death of the President Deby, who fell fighting Islamist elements in his country (and who was replaced by his son); the AU brigade of 3,000 troops, despite being officially announced, was never deployed.

There is a wide range of stakeholders involved in conflict-management in the Sahel; but this multiple presence is based on uncertain approaches and weak actors, especially at the local level, where the G5 Member States may be easy labelled as “failed states” for their economic and social performances.

The multinational force of the G5, in theory formed by the elite elements of their respective armed forces, never reached an effective operational level, not even the ancillary roles of relieving the French forces of “Barkhane” and garrison duties of main urban areas and major communication axes.

Thus despite, an important flux of assets and finance (however not well coordinated) from donor countries, the local actors remain intrinsically weak, as noted by the strong report of a UN Security Council delegation visit in the region, in October 2021.

In the case of MINUSMA (UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission) in Mali—present in Mali since 2013—its work is hampered by the fact that its mandate is limited to the territory of Mali. With France’s withdrawal, the UN Security Council has announced an increase in personnel from 13,000 troops and 1,700 police officers to 17,300 to fill the territorial gaps created by the “Barkhane” withdrawal and to prevent security vacuums. But this risks falling, once again, in the typical mistake of UN-led peacekeeping missions, because of “Mission creep:/”Mandate creep.”

Further, the capability of MINUSMA is affected by divergent views of the Western major players in the area, France, and US, thus keeping the operation in a conceptual vacuum which does not help in formulating a proper approach, but only a limited confrontation to the Islamist insurgency.

The reduction/withdrawal of “Barkhane” worsened the burden on the Mission, and the future remains uncertain, without the permanence of MINUSMA, at least in the medium term.

However, as with the G5 Sahel Joint Force, MINUSMA suffers from lack of material, financial and intelligence capabilities; and the fact that its mission is exclusively to support the authorities and not fight counterinsurgency, make it difficult for it to replace the role of the French. Further, the mission’s effectiveness is threatened by the reduction and/or withdrawal of contingents from Western countries, leaving an additional burden on the poorly trained and equipped Third World country troops, who represent the bulk of the mission.

To better understand the current military (and political) stalemate which affects Mali and the region (and to be fair, it is not new), it is useful remember that in parallel deployment of “Serval,” the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) deployed, with the support of a NATO air bridge, the AFISMA (the African-led International Support Mission to Mali) sent to support Bamako against Islamist rebels in Northern Mali.
The mission was authorized with UN Security Council Resolution 2085, passed on 20 December 2012, which “authorizes the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali for an initial period of one year,” and which reached a peak of 8.000 troops (these troops, when MINUSMA was activated, were ‘re-hatted’ to blue berets).

On the other hand, there are regional armies and self-defence forces that have spontaneously emerged from within the civilian population because of the deteriorating security situation. Their performance falls far short of internationally accepted standards. And the Malian army’s overreaction against Fulani tribe civilians, accused of harbouring both JNIM and IS-GS militants, is having the opposite effect of increasing local recruitment and this has driven many in the population to seek protection from the jihadists. Indiscriminate attacks against the local population by government-affiliated forces, according to MINUSMA, has resulted in more civilian casualties than actual jihadist casualties by 2020.

In other cases, it is local communities that have set up rural self-defence militias, with the consent of the state, who then violently impose their own law. This situation has also spread to Niger, a large and poor country, currently threatened on five of its seven borders, by major jihadist groups. Niger is considered the best French alternative for deployment after the expulsion of its forces from Mali.

The “Alien”

As mentioned above, another actor that has emerged strongly in the security arena in recent years is Russia, which is increasingly active across Africa. But how has Moscow managed to push the French out of several countries that Paris lazily assumed were “acquis?”

A Wagner group financier, and the spearhead of Russian influence on the continent, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who made his fortune in the restaurant business, is one of the most important oligarchs within Putin’s entourage. Since hosting the first Russia-Africa summit in October 2019 (the next one is planned in November 2022) in Sochi, President Vladimir Putin has been striving to make his country play a leading role in Africa, extending geopolitical competition, as in the Cold War era.

In the Sahel, as before in Syria, Central African Republic and Libya, Russia has taken advantage of the insecurity and the vacuum created by the announcement of the departure of French forces from Mali, and is seeking to replace Paris’ influence there, and extend it in the region through regular and irregular means. To this end, its strategy, which began in December 2021, has relied on disinformation by facilitating the activities of the private military company (PMC) Wagner, linked to the Kremlin through the Ministry of Defence and the Federal Security Service (FSB), and by capitalising on a growing anti-French sentiment spreading across the region.

As in the Central African Republic and Mozambique, Wagner has taken advantage of the Malian junta’s turn towards Russia to secure regime protection services and security for senior Malian officials against any coup attempt, while securing significant financial benefits through financial and mineral concessions.

It should be recalled that Mali since independence (1960), was never a docile member of the so-called “FranceAfrique” and had an historical proximity with Moscow (before as USSR and now with the Russian Federation).

However, it cannot be assumed that the use of Wagner guarantees success, considering what happened in Libya, where 1,200 Russian mercenaries failed to deliver victory to Field Marshal Haftar, in his offensive against Tripoli, in the spring of 2020. Moreover, if we take into account their poor operational results in carrying out similar missions—for example, in 2019, against the Islamist insurgency in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province—and add to this the high legal and humanitarian costs they impose, including serious allegations of human rights violations, it could be concluded that Wagner is more of a tool to increase Russian areas of influence on the continent than an element to increase security and regional stabilisation. In any case, its influence on the region’s political future will depend greatly on the outcome of the war in Ukraine, where Russia’s attention is currently focused.

To What End?

The major transformations in the security situation in the Sahel in recent times, with the announcement of the “end of Barkhane,” the emergence of a strong regional hostility towards French policy and the multiplication of ad hoc agreements with JNIM-affiliated jihadist groups in both Mali and Burkina Faso, seem to pave the way for the relaunching of a possible negotiation at a national level, initially in Mali, but which could be extended to other countries affected by the Islamist insurgency.

Eventual negotiations would be favoured by a regional context in which jihadist groups have been able to exploit local grievances and bad governance—using rhetoric based on anti-colonialism—to stir up local sentiments, presenting themselves as indispensable actors to expel foreign forces.

To this end, JNIM’s recent willingness to enter into negotiations with the Malian state authorities seems to indicate a certain strategic flexibility, albeit based on a non-negotiable extremist ideological position on jihad, whether global or local. No matter how many setbacks and delays they suffer and no matter which regime they face, their mission to turn the Sahel into an Islamic emirate remains a priority.

This negotiating position, whose interlocutor is the terrorist leader Iyad Ag Ghali, is supported by Algeria, which is concerned about the evolution of the political and security situation among its southern neighbours, especially in Mali, and which has always been wary of the Barkhane operation, an anti-terrorist action led by the former colonial power.

Moreover, the G5 Sahel initiative, still supported by France, is also viewed with some caution by Algiers, which would have preferred the management of the continent’s security issues through the African Union and regional and bilateral collaboration between states, such as the Joint Operational Military Staff Committee (CEMOC) launched in 2010 and based in Tamanrasset.

Algeria, whose counter-terrorism policy has traditionally oscillated between the carrot and the stick—a counter-terrorism policy based on conventional operations, but leaving open the possibility of jihadists surrendering in exchange for some form of amnesty—now favours strengthening the JNIM vis-à-vis the CMA, albeit conditional on any agreement having the approval of Algiers, which looks with suspicious the idea of “Azawad.”

However, reaching a possible agreement does not seem to be an easy task. It would also require the current JNIM fighters to lay down their arms, something that can only happen if they are offered significant rewards through an ambitious disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) process, funded by the international community (UN?). In this scenario, it is quite possible that the IS-GS, a group that categorically rejects any dialogue, would attract all those disgruntled people who, for ideological or personal-interest reasons, will not accept a negotiation process with the governments.

Future Outlooks for Security in the Sahel

The outlook for security in the Sahel remains uncertain in the short to medium term. Jihadist groups have been demonstrating great resilience in adapting quickly to the dynamics of operations on the ground, even when faced with tactical defeats. Every time an African government has declared that a group is “defeated,” the claim has been disproved shortly afterwards. Military efforts to defeat them on the battlefield, the preferred option for restoring security, have been disappointing. The military efforts of French and local forces, despite having taken out many of the jihadist leaders, as well as regional initiatives, such as the G5 Sahel Joint Force, or military training provided by EUTM-Mali, have not yielded the expected results and, surprisingly, have failed to overcome local jihadist groups as reliable providers of security and services.

In this regard, experience over the years indicates that military strikes against jihadist organisations tend to displace them by forcing them to seek refuge, rather than eradicate them, so that once military pressure diminishes, they return stronger and expand further, unless the capabilities of the state, in which they have been operating, have substantially improved.

On the other hand, and regardless of the difference in approach or ideology, the new security reality in the Sahel is marked by the bitter rivalry between regional Islamic State and al-Qaeda franchises, exacerbated by pre-existing structural vulnerabilities, which have resulted in increased violence and conflict.

However, competition between the two branches of jihadism in the Sahel may be a favourable factor in the new context of French withdrawal and may contribute to the weakening of these groups and the depletion of their resources, effectively diluting the threat they pose.

But the opposite can also happen: direct competition for new recruits and the support of locals can lead to a “bidding up” process using increased levels of violence to demonstrate their commitment and relative power vis-à-vis the competing organisation. Such competition between jihadist groups can aggravate the insecurity situation by encouraging operational innovation, increasing recruitment and pushing civilians to choose sides, contributing to the prolongation of the conflict, as well as to the resilience and adaptability of competing groups. If this were to happen, it would further complicate the security landscape in an already fragile region.

Moreover, the change in the mechanism of Operation “Barkhane,” to delegate responsibility for counter-insurgency to local armies and “Takuba,” comes too late, and does so at a time when protests by local populations and the French authorities’ inability to communicate strategically are showing the limits of external military action.
It seems fundamental, therefore, in order to have a minimum guarantee of success, to achieve a greater “hybridisation” between international forces and local armies that avoids possible rejection, so that the former appear as a support element and not as those responsible for counter-insurgency action.

Finally, the progressive intromission of a new stakeholder (Russia) has changed the strategic view of the Western actors in the region, re-focusing their action to expelling Wagner from Mali so that Moscow does not gain influence in Burkina, Guinea, Niger and Chad.


Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).


An Example of British Misinformation About the War in Ukraine

As everyone has been able to see for several months, the Ukrainian conflict is as much a “physical” military conflict as it is an unbridled and paradoxically limited information war, since each side has banned the broadcasting of the opposing media, and can only influence its own opinion.

The latest example is an article published by the British Daily Mail on April 18th, following the (very real) bombings carried out by the Russian army on arms depots in the city of Lviv (Western Ukraine). The article is written by “journalists” Chris Jewers and Will Stewart. The title reads: “Chilling video shows Putin’s Tu-95 nuclear bombers flying near Ukrainian border as Russian rockets kill at least six in Lviv.”

There follows a video allegedly taken near Ukraine with the caption: “Vladimir Putin sent up his strategic bombers in the skies over Western Russia today amid huge pressure on the Kremlin over the sinking of the Moskva flagship in the Black Sea.” Under this video, there are also two archive photos showing the “strategic bombers” in question, one very blurred, the other in close-up.

However, it is not necessary to be a great aeronautical specialist to note that the aircraft in the video are not TU-95s. One can certainly recognize a TU-160 strategic bomber (NATO code “Blackjack”), preceded by an IL78 (NATO code name “Midas)”, a tanker version of the IL76, and accompanied by four fighters, probably Mig 31s.

Moreover, the flight formation adopted by the aircraft does not correspond to a combat mission—but is actually a photo of a fly-past, or more probably of the rehearsal of the fly-past, which took place on May 9th, for the “Victory Day,” commemorating the fall of the Third Reich and the end of the Second World War, as confirmed, if it were even necessary, by a photo taken on May 9, 2009, presenting more or less the same flight formation as in the video in question.

It is therefore very likely that this undated video was not taken near Ukraine either.

It is quite simply incredible to see such “information,” coming a priori from a video found on social media, being relayed thus by Western media. If we give the journalists the benefit of the doubt concerning their knowledge of the aircraft, there are however too many constructed and unfounded assertions in the article itself to believe that an error was made.

The photos of the aircraft presented are also questionable—like the video, they are neither sourced (“© Social Media” does not mean much), nor dated.

Finally, the journalists declare in the heading of the article that Putin had his strategic bombers take off in the West of Russia, close to Ukraine (unconfirmed information), without ever mentioning the fact that since the beginning of January 2022, about 2 to 3 times a week, the Americans send their strategic B-52 bombers, based in the United Kingdom, to fly over the European continent and turn back when they arrive close to the Russian or Belarusian borders. [These flights can be regularly observed].

It is therefore more necessary than ever to be wary of any information served up by one side or the other in this conflict, as the Western media are neither more neutral nor more reliable than those in Russia.


Alain Charret spent a little more than 25 years in the Air Force during which he served in various listening centers in France, but especially in Germany, before the fall of the USSR. He lives in Antibes.

Eric Denécé is a political scientist who is the Director of Centre Français de Recherche sur le Renseignement (CF2R), to which we are grateful for making the English version of this article possible. [Translated from the French by N. Dass).


Featured image: “Detail from “Women of Britain Come into the Factories,” Propaganda Poster, ca. 1940.

The Russia-Ukraine Conflict And The Tumult Of Our Time

1. Is Operation Z (The Invasion Of Ukraine) Explicable By “Putin Is Evil?”

I cannot agree with what seems to be the dominant explanation in the West that the Russian invasion of Ukraine occurred because Putin is evil. The ‘explanation’ is usually accompanied by claims that Putin is a megalomaniac and a Russian criminal; that his rulership lacks all legitimacy; that Ukrainians are the victims of his overriding ambition to restore Russia’s imperial place in the world; and that Putin is pushing the world to the brink of a third world war and hence must be stopped.

“What are we going to do about Putin?” as an old friend, in her late sixties, full of existential distress and brimming with moral fervor, exclaimed at a recent lunch. The same sentiments have also been repeated by scholars I admire deeply and have often found common cause with, in this very magazine. Thus, in an email chain I am part of, a historian, whom I consider one of the finest of our times, wrote in support of Ryszard Legutko’s condemnation of Putin in the European Parliament that he spoke “for all of us.” Given that I have recently written very enthusiastically on Legutko’s book on freedom here in the Postil, as well as having written an open letter condemning his appalling treatment at the hands of his fellow colleagues and students at his university, I wish that I did see things like him. But I cannot unsee what I see, and what I see comes from my readings and thought gathered over my adult life as a university teacher, where amongst other things, I taught International Relations.

Likewise, the very friend who introduced me to the Postil, and whose writings I have also applauded in these pages, Zbigniew Janowski, sent me his essay, “Ukraine And The West’s National Interest,” about the Ukraine war for comment. That and the request by another friend to share my take on this war have led me to set out my considerations.

War today is mass death, and horrific suffering, but I find all of the above “diagnosis,” to put it mildly, not only lacking in analytical seriousness but contributing to the mindset that has cried out in support of what—each and every time—have turned out to be disastrous military interventions which have only added chaos in regions which were bad enough before the toppling of regimes said to be guilty of “killing their own people”—a turn of phrase that people utter with such seriousness, as if its very formulation gives the situation a special kind of moral significance that we might otherwise be silly enough to conflate with any other kind of mass killing.

Thus, it is now that the people wanting to line up to morally address this geopolitical tragedy—why I formulate it thus shall become evident—have mostly been silent on Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Many, though far from all, who want NATO to “teach Putin a lesson” (said at the same lunch, where the woman’s husband squared up, “Putin is a bully who must be taught a lesson”) had also supported the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. I confess to having been ambivalent back then—in the case of Iraq, at least when it seemed that the CIA had definite proof about the WMD’s; and now seeing I was utterly wrong to believe that these operations were, at best, anything more than massive strategic blunders (leaving aside the whole “blood for oil” dimensions) that made things far worse than they were—and has only highlighted the deficiencies of the armed forces of the West.

This “essay”—if essay it be—is really a collection of considerations that bring together aspects of the tumult of the times which most would think irrelevant—and they are certainly irrelevant to the narrative-thematics mentioned above—but which for me are critical for any serious response to the war. It is a response that eschews the search for a single cause—because, like everything historically important, such searches are as futile as they are distracting and wrong-headed. That means that it is also not a search for moral culpability as such—for as is very evident to me and as I shall lay out, there is plenty of culpability to go around—though it does seem that plenty of people, including journalists, are either ignorant of, or silent about, all matter of circumstances and players that are pertinent to the disaster of this war. Geopolitical questions are never adequately answered by “He did it!” And yes of course Putin ordered the invasion. But the question that must always be posed to an event is: How has the “who” come to be doing the “what?” And what exactly does the “what” involve?

My observations and concerns are also not the response of a specialist on Ukrainian or Russian politics—I read neither language. Though area specialists are not always very good guides to anything—how many Sovietologists foresaw the end of the USSR? What I think is also not from my own first-hand experience on the ground, but it comes from open sources, some of which are provided by first-hand witnesses to the event taking place—even though it is ever more difficult to dig up information, as the internet has become increasingly algorithmically colonized by those who think they should dictate what is genuine information and what is misinformation—as if they would know.

Not only do I have no stake in thinking what I think, but I would really like to be convinced that I am not seeing clearly, that I am missing some essential evidence that would make me change my mind—as opposed to seeing that what people are presenting as evidence/facts are an admixture of dubious psycho-politics, and the ham-fisted application by analogy of historical facts to contemporary contingencies which require consideration of other historical and geopolitical facts rather than reminisces about the Russian empire and the “Russian soul,” and appeals to abstract moral and political ideals that have nothing to do with these or any other circumstances or characters.

I am well aware that many will just think that I and others who see things like me are moral pariahs or conspiracy theorists, and stooges of the evil Vladimir Putin—but the idea that someone who is trying to understand something and who disagrees with a particular diagnosis is a mere puppet of someone else (in this case Putin), and that he is spreading misinformation, and should be censored or denounced, is a symptom of what we have lost in the West—our minds along with our souls. It is much more comfortable to think that this issue is a clear-cut case of good and evil, and we all need to sing along with the rousing, feel-good moral crescendos of denunciation that are taking place wherever friends meet for a meal or drink.

Let me also say that what I present below is indicative not only of a disagreement I have with political “friends,” but also with people whose views I generally consider utterly stupid and contemptible and who are also all yelling to the rooftops that Putin is evil, and Zelensky a hero or saint.

Such people include the US triumvirate (Biden, Harris, Pelosi) who are the “leaders” of the “free world;” and the owners of the media/tech universe; and the ant-like army of mindless academicians and journalists who constitute the Greek chorus to those in power.

It is certainly possible to agree with scoundrels and imbeciles because they may be correct on a particular issue; but in the tumult of our times. it is noteworthy that almost every issue of importance is a matter of life and death, and ends up being one more reason to sort out those who are “enemies” of humankind from the self-proclaimed good, the true and the beautiful. I guess that I must be an enemy of humankind (on multiple fronts) because I hesitate to believe any of the things that have enabled the technocratic global elite. And it is fairly obvious that no matter what the crisis, it is pretty well the same bevy of benignly-beaming countenances who all know how to set us right: ranging from the benign philanthropic crew patenting vaccines like Bill Gates, or hedge fund meddlers in the political fate of nations like George Soros, or the sweat-shirted “geniacs” (I know I made that word up but it fits) at the helm of the platforms of global communication and censorship, those royal founts-of-wisdom and virtue, Charlie, Harry and Meghan, and the rest of the good, true and beautiful crew of pied pipers, court jesters, and acrobats, to the glum-drum-hum-drum-dumb-dumb ring-a-ding-zing-a-ling fun-loving types (imagine a group so interesting and hip that Klauss Schwab is their role model, and whose best bet for getting laid is attending a Davos meeting ). This last lot may seem to be relatively innocuous in the greater scheme of things, with their grey suits and with their blurred pasty faces, and clear blue-sky minds. But they are responsible for enough hot air to make us wonder if there really is another thirty years before we all burn to death, not to mention their devastating destruction of the world’s forests so they can print up their detailed plans. You got to hand it to them, though, they have come up with perfect their plan of ridding the planet of six billion people—they are going to bore everyone to death. I confess the above lot are the real reason I can’t get into Darwin’s theory of evolution.

As much as the whole gang in a sane world would be players in some Aristophanean farce, we are living in a Western cold civil war and issues that people generally treat as separate are not separate at all. For while the issues that cause division vary from climate to biology to virology, the sociology of race, ethnicity, to political theology and to domestic politics and geopolitics—the pitch and consequence is the same: families and friends, classes and nations turn against each other with ferocity; and the West is in a phase of ideological divisiveness, reminiscent of the political chaos in the post-First World War period. Putin cannot be blamed for any of this. In this civil war, the technocratic lords and their minions are winning in the West (I am sure though that their victory though will be pyrrhic). There are plenty of indications that the “glorious future” (of Western developed societies) will be one of total surveillance. All matters, from climate to environmental issues, to everything social, political, and economic will be in the hands and minds of specialists.

Thinkers of the left (Marcuse in One Dimensional Man) and the right (Heidegger in too many places to mention) envisaged and warned against this almost a century ago. Now one does not need to be a philosopher to make sense of the future, as it takes shape before our eyes, and we witness the transformation of politics into the mere administration of things, including humanity, as Saint-Simon initially formulated it. Food, water and air—all of life—become the “things” to be treated as part of one great calculable planning and trading system by the global oligarchs, political elite and technocrats working on behalf of their version of the good of human kind.

These considerations are neither fanciful, nor off-point. On the contrary, the idea that what is happening in Ukraine can even be remotely considered apart from what else is happening in the Western world strikes me as mad—or, in less polemic terms, methodologically deficient.

2. The Bigger Picture, Or The Great Contestation Of Our Time

The political contestation today that matters in the Western world, and thereby impacts upon the entire planet—and the only one that is really about making the future—is between those who are with a program of global leadership and compliance to the narratives of rights, sustainability, censorship, population control, and the complete technocratization of life, and those who oppose it. The lines of division are not lines that most people are even conscious of (which is typical of people in a phase of an event whose meaning is yet to become known even to the inside players—i.e., the makers of it). But in our age of crisis building upon crisis, the lines always come down to more or less the same people, providing the same methods, for the same kinds of solutions—and all based in moral principles that are ostensibly and fortuitously congruent with “the science,” and which will supposedly lead to a more equal and emancipate world (even though they actually lead to a world of greater conformity and compliance, greater censorship and control and an unprecedented scale of inequality). On this last point, consider how Western COVID policies have impacted on the economies of impoverished countries.

The Ukraine war is one more component of an assemblage of a technocratic globalist world outlook that has multiple open organs of articulation and instantiation. This outlook is widely publicized and broadly crafted. It is not a conspiracy, if one means that there is a plan that is hatched secretly and well executed. The plan—and the vocabulary in which it is formulated—is publicly aired in multiple forums from the UN to the World Economic Forum, from corporate CEOs to NGOs, from newspapers and television stations, and in university and primary school class-rooms.

If, however, one means that a group of players seeks to impose their will upon others to control the direction of resources and the organization and administration of life is a conspiracy—stated thus, then all politics is a conspiracy. Those who believe that “the science,” and hence a technocratic elite, are both necessary to solve the problems of the species and the planet then have to accept that the consequences of implementation are and will be extremely violent. It is very understandable why people think that population control, green energy, universal income etc. are very good outcomes, just as it is very understandable why peasants and workers in Russia and China thought that the solution of communism would be a very good thing. The problem with their position is not only what the world will be like if it arrives to where it is being led (see above), but the horrific costs involved in getting from this world to that future “world.” Those who are challenging this globalist vision believe that this arrival can only be achieved by a level of destruction, and domination that will make the totalitarianism of the twentieth century seem but a prelude to a greater horror.

The “to come” is the messianic formulation that a number of philosophers have used to invoke this future, which will ostensibly emancipate every oppressed group. It is just a fancy name for what Marxists-Leninist used to call “the glorious future” and the “New Man.” Its greatest obstacle is not (as endlessly repeated) the privilege and prejudices of dominators who ideologically indoctrinate the dominated—but traditions which give most people a thicker identity than the thinner ones of race, ethnicity (the very issue that has been the tinderbox in Ukraine), gender, sexuality—all distorted and self-serving ideas of intellectuals who advocate the globalist “view” of emancipation and personhood. The victims of these ideas are primarily the working classes.

Amongst the intelligentsia, it is a tiny and insignificant group of outcasts who are coming to see that any allegiances to the old alliances of left and right (liberal-conservative) have not the slightest relevance at all—because states, corporations and NGOs are equally culpable, being fully integrated into the program, which is (to use a term of that Parisian enthusiast of “nomad thinking,” Gilles Deleuze) rhizomic in its “logic” and evolution, rather than arboreal. This program is a contagion in which the makers of “the future” act in concert, without even realizing what it is that they are making or what the program even is. This too is simply the way events generally transpire, and how we all live, i.e., mostly unaware of what we are doing whilst we do it. It is global in the variety of interests, ideological preferences and types of people that are drawn into its epicentre.

Those who are being drawn in, come from every corner of the globe, and one should not underestimate the attractive “goods” that are promised—prosperity, which given the technological potential unlocked by the fusion of global forces, resources and techniques, enable the chosen ones to live as gods (no wonder the dream is to find technologies to defeat not only sickness but death itself), and pleasure, including the most intense sexual pleasures and array of pleasurable possibilities (the most widely cited philosopher of our time, Michel Foucault, was both prophet and avatar of this new “higher” type).

In most traditional societies those who seek to live their lives pursuing such pleasures have been either outlawed outright, though mostly left to seek their pleasures in hidden, draped and private spaces. But to fabricate entire life identities around a sexual act or preference, so that it becomes a means for the complete overturning of traditional institutions and the touchstone of value is insane, not least because it cannot create the same kinds of sacrificial bonds of solidarity that enable societies to persist over long period of times.

Lest anyone think I am overstating the significance of sexual identity politics, consider the public head of MI6, who came out saying at the very beginning of the Ukraine war that the real difference between Russia and the West is to be seen in how they respectively respond to LGBTQ rights.

Like pretty well every political leader in the non-Western world, not to mention the Islamic world (is it Islamophobic to mention that rainbow flags do not fly atop government buildings in Islamic countries?), Putin does not want to allow sexual identity/diversity politics to flourish in Russia; and it is one reason he is hated so much by liberals in the Western world.

I am reminded of a book I once reviewed, God in the Tumult of the Global Square, where the authors are completely flummoxed by the fact that the Russian Orthodox contingent were not on board with the other delegates at an interfaith conference that denounced critics of gay clerics—but the fact was that the Russians simply valued the importance of traditional sexual values in social formation more than individual sexual orientation, rights and choices. To think that Putin cares about private homosexual acts, because he is a nasty/pasty homophobe and who encourages the persecution of gay people, is to either be willfully misleading or to fail to see the very different point that Putin has made very clear in a number of speeches: Western sexual (and all styles of identity) politics is destructive to the traditions of Church and family; and after some seventy years of communist social destruction and another ten or so years of mayhem, Putin—and his support base—will do all in their power to resist what they see as a Western trojan horse.

With respect to the role of sexual identity politics in the dismantling and reconstruction of social institutions—and hence what the West now stands for—it is significant that the argument in favour of decriminalisation of homosexuality was based upon the sanctity of privacy. Had the matter of sexual preference and pleasure been solely a matter of private concern, it would not have posed any threat to the role of the family as such.

However, to put the pursuit and open celebration of sexual desire at the centre of our drives and needs, as Freud and the generation that came of age in the 1960s did, and now our pedagogues do, is to place appetite against traditions—all traditions—and thereby create the clearing in which we live today; and the consequences of which are also relevant to this war.

For this combination is the great attractor-force of the West today; and it is particularly attractive to the young, wealthy and vital; and it is as just as attractive to the more well-heeled Chinese, as it is to Russians, as it is to Ukrainians, as it is to the majority of middle class youth with prospects and spending power in Western lands, as it is, indeed, to those Polish students and philosophy professors who denounced Ryszard Legutko for having the temerity to see through the destructive nature of implanting a surveillance unit (of the sort that pretty well all Western universities now have) at his university to ensure that “diversity” (of sexual styles of pleasure and identities formed around those pleasures) will be protected.

That its attractiveness—and more generally the attractiveness of a life dedicated to slaking one’s desires and searching for comfort—is a mere veneer and false promise of emancipation is all too evident in the widespread despondency and social decay in the richest society the world has ever seen—drug dependency, broken marriages, abandoned or single mothers struggling to raise their children, abandoned and run away children, race conflicts, suicide rates and the widespread use of opiates to transport their users out of the pain and despair of everyday life. This is the end of the line of what the more philosophical of readers might recall was Descartes’ great vision of us becoming lords and masters of nature, viz. an eternal, comfortable life (achievable through advances in medicine).

Given this reality, is it also any wonder that given what they know through their own empty experiences of hooks-ups without love and serial monogamy, the youth and their teachers, who have been caught up in this pursuit of the pleasure-principle and its equation with life’s very meaning, as well as the most important feature of all in one’s identity, there is a search for a spiritual purpose that might redeem this morass of sadness, and despair that dwells within the surface phantasmagoria of opulence, infantilism, and eroticism.

That search, though, is undertaken by souls already brainwashed and broken and all they can do is plea for more of the same cause—they want more equity, more social justice so all on the planet may share their opulence and self-indulgence, and emptiness. These empty zombified people find their greatest spiritual core in demanding ever more service to the idols that have malformed them. Their prayers and rituals, their band of solidarity, their most genuinely joyful act is the moral outrage that they express at anyone who deviates from thinking and talking about the world that would lead others away from their gods. Their gods are (as Kant would say of the God that reason itself conjures) the “mere ideas” of their own “moral freedom,” which is their power to form absolutes that all must obey because—so they truly believe—all (except the ideologically deformed) want what they want: they call this “social justice.”

It is not only to do with sexual pleasure, but also with the divvying-up of material resources and ensuring no identity group is more privileged than another. The people who love this way have no idea what they are really doing. They are slaves of the gods of sexual indulgence, “social justice,” intersectionality, etc. and imagine they are the elite/priests selecting who will be fit to be on board the ark of the future.

What we are living through is the apogee of modern ambition and technology. Its roots combine the enlightened and romantic thinkers of the modern age. This apogee involves tearing out all other forms of sociality and encountering. But its adherents believe that they are involved in redeeming the best of traditions and people that have been silenced by history (cf. Walter Benjamin on the redemption of the oppressed). This is all advanced through an appeal to rights, anti-domination/ emancipation, equity—and an inability to consciously understand the sacrificial requirements of any kind of society; though they do unconsciously understand that they must sacrifice others (largely those who do not agree with them about their socio-political objectives or processes) to realize their dream.

That premodern societies were generally sacrificial orders is something they simply know nothing of—their moral fantasies require they speak of tribal societies as egalitarian and democratic. The Australian author and faux aboriginal man Bruce Pascoe has written a book that has received many prestigious awards and is taught in schools around the country and which claims that Australian aborigines were agrarian, settled people who lived in large towns, in a country that was the first and largest democracy. He is also a professor at Australia’s most prestigious university—the University of Melbourne. It is not the fact that he ignores the hardships of tribal life, the wars and feuds between tribes, the severity of punishments for acts of transgression, and the existential precariousness which was so great that there were numerous reports by nineteenth century authors of cannibalism; but that he depicts that world as a kind of model of what the future can and should be, if we but get our story straight and find common ground.

The symptoms of the deranged thinking of Western societies are endless—and although imbecilic thinking as the order of the day is recognized by various authors who generally badge themselves as “conservatives”—what is far less common is to identify these very bad ideas with the globalist project that is enabled, in conjunction with what is basically a sexually woke diverse Walt Disney view of the world, in which the United States and its entertainment industries provide the cultural leadership that mainstream politicians, corporations, and all the other leader types disseminate.

I am surprised that so few of my friends see the connections between the attacks upon tradition and the brainlessness and heartlessness of the woke world and the globalist forces that are not incidental to the Ukraine war—and while I cannot account for what they see, or why they don’t see it, I think that as astute as many of their critical writings of the modern spiritual and political crisis are, they are duped by the phantasm of a West that is no more, if ever it was; and the adequacy of the political vocabulary and the categories of distinction it deploys to understand the current circumstance.

It is not that I support Putin as if he and the Russians are to be likened to a team I follow, but I am very sure that much of what I am seeing is seen by Putin, as it is by a philosopher, Alexander Dugin, whose thought is gaining increasing exposure as the true source of Putin’s evil thoughts—as if apart from Dugin’s Taking over the World for Dummies, Putin’s library might resemble Pelossi’s bookshelf, and he does not have enough information-flow just by observing the world he is in. Is it being a Putin lackey to suggest if there were a test in political history and geo-politics Putin might blow away any world western leader including Boris, who one would expect to fare well in the Classics bit, but not so great in the final question, “What is going on now and what are you going to do about it?”

Apart from the ridiculousness of this cartoonish division of the world into this hybrid monster (supposedly knowing about Dugin is a sign that one really understands the mechanics of evil coming out of Russia ) and the innocent rest, what I am seeing is not something I want to see—nor is it something that I think Putin and Dugin want to see. Or to say it another way—if one looks at speeches or writings by Dugin and Putin, it is clear that they see the West in its death throes—last October Putin likened the West under the dominion of identity politics to Russia under communism, and (in spite of Putin really being a commie) that was not praise.

When Putin rebukes the West for being an “Empire of Lies” (I take up the problem of widespread Western lies—and the matter of “Russian lies” is simply not relevant to the lies of the West)—I do not know how one can deny that he has seen the rottenness that has become simply part of the day-to-day reality in the West—the fabrication, denunciation and persecution now usual in the West. I do not consider someone either wrong or an enemy, if they show me a character flaw; and I cannot see how the West can begin to heal the rifts that threaten to break it other than by addressing the lies that its elite states about itself, its opponents, and the world at large.

3. International Relations 101: The Russian-Ukraine War

International conflicts are driven by all manner of reasons, from conflict over resources, to ideological or faith-driven decisions, to prestige. Often wars are the explosive resolutions of entanglements that have occurred over protracted periods of time and past decisions which cannot be unmade without tragic collisions. The history of nations and their interests are not, at least for the most part, as in one’s own life, the result of principles and wisdom, but of circumstances that involve our own and our forefathers’ oversights, missteps, sins and crimes, as well as our and their better judgments and qualities.

In spite of the Western media coverage of this war as a clear-cut case of good vs. evil, I find the position of those who depart from that narrative more compelling. There is John Mearsheimer, International Relations Professor, who, for many years, has been warning that the United States and NATO have been creating an intolerable geopolitical threat to Russia that would result in war.

There is the former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter whose time in active service in the first Iraq war gave him important insights into the regime of Saddam Hussein and why the claims being made about Hussein’s army and the weapons of mass destruction were false.

There is Jacques Baud who has an important essay in the Postil; and Colonel Douglas McGregor, who sums up the situation in terms of whether the USA has a legitimate and genuine national interest in what is a regional conflict.

As counter positions to the mainstream, I have also found 21st Century Wire, Patrick Henningsen podcasts, UK Column, George Galloway, Lee Stranahan, the Duran, Richard Medhurst, the Grayzone to be amongst those I tune into quite regularly and find informative. Anyone familiar with these podcasts and figures will know they fall on opposing sides on some important issues about states and markets—i.e., the left and right. But, as I state above, anyone who thinks that the demarcation between left-right, liberal-conservative, is living in a “literary reality.”

The analyses the aforementioned people provide comes from people challenging the mainstream media line (oozing out of our screens, earbuds and pages) that anything that does not support the Ukrainian cause and narrative is Russian propaganda. The most basic lesson one learns in International Politics is that peoples have different stakes to protect, and live in different “worlds” and they generally wish to protect their livelihoods and ways of being in the world—that is, people have different interests; and the word interest is synonymous with the how and why of life lived within a particular place and time. That is why it is important not just to listen to what Zelensky and the Ukrainians are saying and what we believe them to be doing, but also to what Putin and the Russians are saying and doing.

Putin has said that the invasion is to de-Nazify Ukraine—i.e., destroy the ultra-ethnic nationalist elite whose insignificant electoral representation is no indication of its social and institutional influence, and end NATO expansion.

None of the criticisms I have read against these claims takes these words seriously, though plenty try and deny that there is a neo-Nazi problem; or that the US ever conceded it would stop NATO expansion (a claim Putin often makes); or that there is any reason why Russia should be fazed by NATO expansion. I cannot take these “critical” claims seriously; and in any case, the issue is not what you or I think about how Putin should react to the number of neo-Nazis in Ukraine and the power they have garnered institutionally in pressing their interests, or about NATO expansion—what matters is how Putin and the Russian government think—and it would be wise to commence with the proposition that what they think is what they say, and if there is a mismatch between their words and deeds then interpret accordingly. I don’t think there is a mismatch. What I do see is a lot of people not listening, or not taking their words seriously.

On the matter of Russian expansion, I am inclined to defer to two figures who did foresee where NATO expansion into the East would lead, as they strongly advised against ignoring Russia’s concerns about that expansion—the architect of the US Cold War policy, George Kennan and the former ambassador to Ukraine, and career ambassador, and former ambassador to the Russian Federation William Burns. A similar position has also been aired by Peter Ford, a former UK ambassador to Syria, who has first-hand experience of that ongoing debacle of supplying arms to jihadists who were supposedly our friends and who helped in the creation of ISIS.

But NATO expansion aside, the immediate occasion of the invasion was the mass positioning of Ukrainian troops and the imminent threat of even greater escalation by the Ukrainians of border disputes arising out of the Maidan. The establishment of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, like the secession of Crimea, are the direct result of attacks upon Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Though, if the Western media is to be believed, the escalation of violence against Russian-speakers, like everything else that Russians say, was mere propaganda and it was simply an open-and-shut case of invasion.

In the Donbas, a civil war has cost many thousands of lives (14000 is the common number bandied around), most of which are Russian-speakers. This too has received scant (albeit occasional) Western media attention, though Patrick Lancaster has been living there and reporting on this unknown civil war for eight years.

What people like John Mearsheimer have been seeing and saying since the Maidan is that while this was happening the expansion of NATO and its direct support for the Ukrainian military was akin to building a massive dynamite factory beside a nitroglycerine plant—very reminiscent of the events transpiring in the Balkans prior to the outbreak of the First World War. And as with anyone investigating the causes of the Great War, it is extremely unhelpful to break the conflict down into moral bites and depict the players involved in purely moral culpability-terms, in a manner that befits school children (“Please Sir, it was the Germans and the blank cheque they gave to the Austro-Hungarians that caused it” was the answer of British schoolchildren to the “test” question: Who caused the World War).

Moralistic approaches to political history and current geopolitical circumstances are the means for avoiding rather than solving complex geopolitical antagonisms. Such antagonisms are only resolved through war (yes, sadly, it is the means of last resolve) and statecraft.

Statecraft and international diplomacy require having honed one’s mind to deal with the generation and culmination and impact of specific contingencies, actors, and historical and current forces, as well as perceived national interests; and how to deal with limited available choices of action quickly. The reduction of such complexities to normative principles is a scandal that only discloses a fundamental arrogance and ignorance within the modern liberal mind, that to be sure has gone a long way in helping the US become a hegemon, but a hegemon which inevitably leaves ruin as its monument, and causes far many more deaths than it saves.

Further, far from bringing the nations together, as the creators of the League of Nations and United Nations hoped to do, it has simultaneously devalued the international currency of norms by making it seem nothing more than a smokescreen of a particular way of being and acting in the world, which is no less violent and no more benign than the ways of other nations who not only have their own problems to deal with but, when their interests come into collision with the Western democracies, face putative measures; from ruination of their economies to invasion and a scale of warfare that makes what is happening in Kiev look like a soldiers’ picnic. (Consider how many died in the first 24 hours of the invasions of Iraq with the reported death toll in Ukraine—shock and awe.)

None of the enemies of the US fail to note that the representatives of the United States, and more generally the defenders of a liberal hegemonic international order, in international forums, deploy the moral philosophy of deontology—the rectitude of principle [i.e., Human Rights] is all important—whilst blithely embracing consequentialism on every occasion when that order and national interest is threatened (provided said order can marshal enough resources to defeat the threat).

For US and NATO interventionism (as is invariably the case with any player considering the option of initiating war) is very much driven by strategic realities; whereas poor Mr. Zelensky is a genuinely tragic figure wading in waters that he was never prepared for. Caught twixt ethnic-nationalists, who think him a clown, and oligarchs, who use him as a puppet, and portrayed by the Western media as the saintly stateman of the hour (much like Time‘s list of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2019 included that other genius of statecraft, AOC). If poll reports are to be believed, he has managed to claw back popularity amongst Western Ukrainians who had initially voted in droves for him, before thinking they had one more turkey, but who seem now eager to buy the message that Ukrainian freedom is worth armed resistance against Russia.

But forgive me if I am somewhat sceptical—what I see is that a huge number of Ukrainians have the very good sense to simply want to get out of the place. And while the Ukrainian army is sizable and well-armed, there are also reports of the government distributing tens of thousands of assault rifles to civilians. This is, as the Russian media and government rightly point out, in breach of international law, requiring the clear demarcation between civilians and combatants. While the Western media has no problem finding stories about unwilling Russian troops, we are supposed to believe that Ukrainians still in Kiev, one and all, are noble, patriotic freedom fighters. Sorry, but I grew up a long time ago, and in spite of the absurd, albeit widespread depiction within anti-Russian media, of Russia as the USSR and Nazi German redux, such analogies do not hold up to even the most cursory of examinations.

There have also been stories coming out of Mariupol of Ukrainian soldiers using civilians as human shields. Like all inconvenient stories about the war they are immediately denied, without investigation by Western journalists and said to be Russian propaganda. But, I ask, why would the non-combatants want to stay in the city, and why would the battalions that Russian soldiers are intent on destroying not be prepared to save themselves at any cost? The military tactics of the Russians do indicate that the objectives of Russia are what Putin says they are—to demilitarize Ukraine and not simply erase it. Thus, it seems plausible that any captured Ukrainian soldier found to have links with the Azov battalion or any other ethnic ultra-nationalist Ukrainian group will in all likelihood be executed immediately.

Whatever we say about Zelensky, he was as incapable of building peace in Ukraine as he was in reducing corruption. In spite of all the media hoopla he receives for his courage in standing up to a tyrant, and speeches that look like they come from US hack-tv drama writers, he was no statesman. He is either truly child-like or has so little knowledge of relatively recent history that he really thought that Russia would simply standby and wait for the Minsk agreements to continually be ignored and watch as Ukrainian forces were got ready to launch a final defeat of the Russian-speaking resistance in the Donbas.

If, by the way, anyone thinks that ethnic-nationalist militias killing Russian first language speakers with impunity, and infiltrating the various institutions of Ukraine, including the military is untrue, which is now the Western media default position, you should go back and read/watch reports in the Guardian and BBC when they were not just outlets of propaganda. You might also turn to a paper, put out by the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University just last September, by Oleksiy Kuzmenko, “Far Right Group Made its Home in Ukraine’s Major Western Military Training Hub.” And if you do not think providing a de facto, if not de jure, front for NATO’s strategic advancement, and threatening Russia with nuclear war, is not brinkmanship, I hazard to guess what would be.

In any case, Mr. Zelensky has had the kind of lesson in geopolitics that those who had the temerity to defy the United States have often had to learn to their peril. And while the United States and other European Nations desist from direct military involvement at least for the moment—though engaging in the now widely accepted practice of asset-seizures of Russian nationals (the future consequences of this policy bode very ill indeed for the world’s economy generally, as well as a future peace, or even the West’s economic power and credibility) as well as the sackings of Russians from all manner of jobs, from teaching to the arts—Mr. Zelensky berates the West for not being brave enough to have a full scale war.

As for the innocence of Saint Zelensky, I have said he is a tragic figure. But as he calls ever more desperately to bring the entire world into war, I cannot see him as anything other than a man who has stumbled blindly into this like a drunk with a match in the aforementioned nitroglycerine factory, panicking for his own survival; or, I will grant him this, possibly a place in the pantheon of the nation’s heroes, right alongside Stepan Bandera, that anti-Soviet Nazi ally and mass-murderer of Jews, Poles, and Russians.

If Western journalists stopped for a moment and realized that Putin does not care what they think of his actions, but he understands Russia and the events and figures within Russia’s historical memory. Putin understands that when President Yushenko posthumously awarded the medal of Hero of the Ukraine in 2010 to Bandera, and when the extremely crooked and much-hated President Pyotr Poroshenko, who emerged out of the Maidan, signed a law in 2015 glorifying the neo-fascist OUN and the UPA, this was a signal of support to Bandera neo-Nazi supporters and an acknowledgment of the need for the support of this influential power block.

Gone are the days when I, at least, could trust anything I see on the BBC. And yet again this prejudice I have developed was confirmed not just to be sheer prejudice, when a friend of mine sent me today a BBC report about how insignificant the Azov battalion and other neo-Nazi groups are in Ukraine and hence Putin was—yet again—telling lies that the roving intrepid BBC journalist was exposing. The “exposure” consisted of loosely tossing around some figures and speaking with Ukrainians who said: No there was no Neo-Nazi problem, there were hardly any of them; and in any case, they were good fighters, and their ideology was personal—akin to being a Seventh Day Adventist. One person who provided important evidence to discredit mad bad Vlad was good old Honest Poroshenko himself—who merely had to roll his eyes when asked of the existence of Ukrainian neo-Nazis.

I make no secret of the fact I think Joe Biden an idiot, but he is not such an idiot that he really thinks that Americans who have just presided over a humiliating debacle in Afghanistan want to start rounding up their kids, who are busily studying sexual and racial identity inflected subjects so they can go hook up with what and who they want, in the hope they may make themselves more virtuous, if they don’t have enough people to denounce or de-platform, by finding a riot in the summer, that is, if some unfortunate black person fulfils their dreams and gets caught in the cross-fire of police panic.

Perhaps Zelensky simply does not understand the elite priorities of the US, from its president to its woke military higher ups, which is to turn the entire world into something that highly sexualised, irresponsible teens want and understand, which certainly does not include dying for anything, let alone other people’s freedom. Moreover, on the ground, none knows where Ukraine is, and Kiev is a style of chicken dinner. They don’t really want to see their little “It,” who is doing so well at college, come back home in a coffin. Heck, one even might recall one of the major reasons why Trump got elected; that is, as Joe now stumbles around airing threats of the sort that seemed to work well enough when he had deal with that bum Corn Pop—and Vlad is just another bum after all. But for all that, Joe is not so gone (yet) that he doesn’t know that taking the US into a war would not really help him get re-elected.

The heroic leader Zelensky, as he is portrayed in the West, looks like he is in an all-or-nothing situation. And the millions of dollars he has stashed away overseas, thanks to his former media mogul boss, oligarch—and all-round gangster—political backer, also the former employer of Hunter Biden, Ihor Kolomoyskyi (yes, he was the real owner of Burisma) won’t help him much. In the midst of a country mired in corruption (a little more of which anon), Zelensky, like his predecessor, has been completely played by the US and the EU for their own interests.

Unfortunately, the Ukrainians, who are caught in the midst of the horrors, are learning what I think is the kind of thing anyone learns about in IR or IP classes 101, at least those classes that (admittedly becoming rare) are not taught by some eager beaver social justice warrior reducing geopolitics to race, class and gender. (If you think I am joking, check out how big a field feminist International Relations is now.)

In a world where one would not be denounced as a traitor or apologist of evil for thinking about national interests, International Politics teachers, when trying to understand Russia’s position and role in this event, would, I think, typically (and I have a seen a number of people more or less raise this same example) ask their students to imagine that the US has returned large parts of land annexed by Texas and California in the 19th century to Mexico.

Imagine then that the predominantly English-speaking groups within those territories found themselves disputing about regional resource extraction and distribution with Spanish-speaking groups, most of whom lived on the other side of the country. Then these ethnic tensions culminated in a coup, partly enabled by Chinese meddling in internal affairs. The regions that had formerly been parts of Texas and California became embroiled in a civil war.

The Texan and Californian Mexicans were being continuously bombed by the Mexican government—they were hearing true stories of the government closing down media outlets sympathetic to their cause, and forbidding the English language being taught in Mexican schools—just as the English did with the Irish and Welsh (and has been done in Quebec).

Then China wanted to put rockets on Mexican soil, and were sending in troops on the ground to train Mexican troops; and then the Mexican President said he wanted to build up the country’s nuclear capacity as well as have a more formal security alliance with China which it was desperate to join with other allies of China.

If a student in discussing this scenario were to pipe up and say, “The US President not only should, but would accept all this, and that any President who took military action to intervene on behalf of the persecuted ethnic Anglo-Americans and push back against Chinese meddling in its sphere of influence, would be proof of him being an evil megalomaniac”—any IR teacher would be thinking, “I have completely failed this student—he (sorry, I meant it) has no clue.”

But this all is meant to sound reasonable when we just insert the words “Putin,” “Russia,” “Ukraine” and the “USA.” It reminds me of how our educated elite think it perfectly acceptable to say that “white men are exploiters, thieves, privileged, undeserving etc.,” but were the “white men” replaced with “Jews,” “women,” “blacks,” there would be mass outrage.

The thinking that ignores geopolitical “realities” (and they are realities because of forces that have accrued over a protracted period of time; they are delicately poised; and the failure of statesmen to balance them come with massive consequences)—enables mass death. And in spite of the voluntarist metaphysical tendency that has completely seized the Western mind, these realities do not wilt under the glare of a moral(izing), that is to say, hypocritical, conscience.

It seems just yesterday, when journalists could not line up quickly enough to denounce George Bush, and prior to that Ronald Regan for being warmongers. Then at least they acknowledged (or at least a substantial number did) that the “neo-con” idea of “regime change” was deranged. Though when the Obama administration weighed in with tremendous enthusiasm for the “Arab Spring,” in what was really another variant of the same fantasy—a world of liberal democracies, all singing from the “International Community” hymn book, it should have been obvious to any thoughtful people that very few Western journalists were able to think with any real clarity outside of the safe partisan parameters that they had picked up in their training and developed in conversation with others from the same background. So it was that they easily drifted into rebooting the Cold War in order to topple that other monster Trump; and now they find themselves in that battle with the monster Putin.

Irrespective of journalists intermittently opposing US interventions, at times the US has been a mere spoiler, providing arms, training etc. At other times it has been a direct intervener—and the results have always been the same—mass death and utter disaster. I think the United States not only stood for something worth defending during the Cold War, and that Reagan (ridiculed by most of the intellectual elite) and his administration were right to break away from the Washington consensus that the Cold War was permanent, and unwinnable, and that Regan had taken the world to the brink of a world war—when in fact he was canny, and had good advisers, and took action at the right time – though if any forethought were given to the immediate aftermath, nothing good came to pass.

But this is not the Cold War. Russia is not the USSR; and the America of today has no unified spiritual core, or even a unified political purpose. Thinking that joining forces against Putin will magically produce such purpose is magical thinking. Unfortunately, the amount of magical thinking that the US has produced since the end of the Cold War has been endless (not that it was not doing some before then—e.g., whoever took over in Iran had to be better than the Shah; supporting the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Russians would lead to something good, etc.).

In concluding this section, I should also add that I can easily imagine that if I were a Ukrainian “first language” person living in Kiev, I would have been amongst the tens or hundreds of thousands flooding the square and streets in 2014, demanding that my interests be met, and that the President sign on to the association agreement that the EU was dangling, as a way to draw the country further into its sphere of influence. I may even have become so inflamed by the event that I may have found myself joining one of the nationalist militias, with heroes who sided with the Nazis because I would have realized that just standing in the streets, singing songs and chanting does not topple governments.

I most likely would have been full of rage that the Russians, who had promised independence, were still pulling the strings of the government, and that it was impossible to trust the good will of an ethnic group who had starved millions of my countrymen to death just as I would not feel ashamed that I had ancestors who threw their lot in with Hitler, because say what you like about Hitler, he killed a lot of Russians. Being part of such a group, I may well have beat up, or if things got really out of hand, even killed Russian-speaking Ukrainians that wanted to continue to oppress me and my family by keeping us as prisoners. Now, I would desperately want the West to come and save me, and hate Putin and see him as the cause of the panic and suffering that makes me want to flee the country.

But I am not that person—and nor am I a Russian-speaking Ukrainian from the Donbas who has also seen hospitals and schools bombed, who has lost family members since the Maidan, and whose prayers of being defended have been answered with the incursion of Russian forces. The war in the Donbas, and the bombing, shelling and shooting, as Russian foces surround major cities in their goal of toppling the government, demilitarising the country and rounding up, imprisoning, and killing members of the ethnic nationalist militias are all related to the Maidan—just as the Maidan is the consequence, not just of the enormous number of spontaneous protestors, US/ EU and Western money-meddling, but of the Homodor, and that massive crime, because of the triumph of Bolshevism. All that too is an important aspect of the part played by the likes of Stepen Bandera in the holocaust. The strands of these entanglements go back a long way, and the event of this war is an outbreak of forces that have been incubating and developing through the entanglement. Saying, “Yes but Putin started it” is, quite frankly, not a serious matter for consideration.

4. “A Thug In The Kremlin?” Or, Comparative Politics 101

If International Politics/International Relations brings with it a perspective that transports us away from what we want and what principles we think should prevail, Comparative Politics also forces us to put aside moral judgments which reach for absolutes that are also “mere ideas” and ask—just or good, in comparison to what? It was Aristotle who initially developed this as a basic procedure of Political Science, when he departed from his teacher, Plato, on the question of whether identifying the good in itself was the appropriate standard for appraising the conditions and problems of states and their constitutions.

Aristotle’s morphological approach to reality in general, though a handicap for those wanting to study the mechanics of nature, has remained as central to the development of Political Science as his discovery of Logic was to that discipline and philosophy more broadly. He saw that all living bodies have their own dynamics and pathologies. He invented the idea (albeit Plato had prepared the ground) that the Political Scientist was a diagnostician whose task was, inter alia, to tap into the strengths and weaknesses of the particular state and constitution under examination (Aristotle is reported to have collected and studied almost 160 constitutions), which led him to the conclusion that potentialities for the good of the community within states very much depended upon their circumstances. This did not mean that he did not distinguish between better and worse regimes, or that he did not acknowledge the importance of justice as a communal good. But he realized that certain goods must already be in place if others are to be achieved. And that takes time.

The history of political philosophy can roughly be broken down into two schools—one consists of thinkers like Aristotle, such as Montesquieu, Burke, and in some important ways G.W.F. Hegel, and de Tocqueville, who are driven by the comparative method which takes account of historical and social conditions which dictate the choices available to statesmen and peoples. The other school takes its bearing from norms, rational principles, arguments and ideal standards, Plato is their founder; and its modern exponents include John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau (who in his less known and better political observations drops it), Immanuel Kant, J.G. Fichte, the neo-Hegelians and (once one unveils the fog and contradictions of historical materialism) Marxist-Leninists, John Rawls, and (also once one gets through the thicket of fog) the post-structuralists—and George Bush and the neo-cons, Barack Obama and the liberal world order more generally.

As you can see, this second group is ideologically very diverse (hence I suppose some clown in university administration can satisfy themselves that this would be a good thing—hell, there is even a black guy in the list, and plenty of feminist theorists to fill the bill). Unfortunately, their position is built upon inferences rather than detailed knowledge of circumstance, which is also why their position is a great platform for making noble-sounding speeches; but when it comes to political action is either irrelevant (the cause of very bad decisions and inevitable failure to get the outcomes that accord with the principles, which inevitably leads to charges of outright hypocrisy), or catastrophic. This latter method, if method it really be, is easy to grasp once one adopts a first principle, an unassailable idea, which, of course, can be done with greater (as in Immanuel Kant or J.G. Fichte) or lesser sophistication, like the mainstream Western journalists and commentariat reporting on this war.

In keeping with this ‘idea-ist’ (sic.) approach, most arguments and reports about the war are framed as ethico-political denunciations of Russia—and the idea that if some fact harms the war effort of our team it must be Russian propaganda—and I have no doubt that this essay will be dismissed by many who skim it as pure Russian propaganda …oh well, this is the world we now live in.

The denunciations tend to assume one or both of the following: (a) Russia is a tyranny while the West is the font of freedom; and (b) Ukraine is really like the West both culturally and politically.

I might be more tempted to go along with this if I really believed that the West still stood for freedom, or even anything more noble than the decay, infantilism, indulgence, material grasping, and spiritual emptiness that I see devouring it. (Alert—just because Putin and Xi see this does not make them wrong, nor me their lackey in saying it.) The West no longer even stands for freedom of thought, let alone freedom of expression—the only things that might eventually enable it to get to a better, even if far from perfect, place. As for Ukraine and democracy, and Russia and their lack thereof…let’s do some comparison.

First, let us briefly consider “the money”—that variable which is so widely used to identify a people’s welfare—as in GDP per capita. In Ukraine, the official GDP per capita in 2020 was $(US) 3,800 (adjusted for ppp $12, 100). In Russia, in 2020, GDP per capita had declined by some 30 percent, since its peak in 2013, but it was still over $10, 000, and rendered in ppp almost $ (US) 26,500.

Figures such as these never tell the whole story, but I think it symptomatic of a fact that I think is indisputable—since the demise of the Soviet Union there has never been a government in the Ukraine that has not been plagued by corruption, or, and this follows inexorably from the scale of the country’s corruption, that has managed to retain great popular support. Nor one that has been able to sufficiently rein in the power of the oligarchs that Ukraine could achieve even a moderate level of economic well being.

Before addressing Russia’s “authoritarian government,” I will state another fact that I think will not appeal to people whose image of Putin comes exclusively from Western main-stream media outlets. Putin has the kind of support base in the population that Western politicians only dream of, and the reason for that is not primarily because he is a thug/criminal/stand-over merchant.

The circumstances and challenges in Ukraine and Russia, in the aftermath of communism, were somewhat similar, though Ukraine was economically the poorer, with GDP per capita being $ (US) 1257 – but had halved by 2000; in 1993 Russia’s was a tad over $ (US) 3000, and had almost halved by 2000. The geographical distribution of resources in the country had created what many might consider a very undesirable state of things—the West was more dependent upon the East for its wealth, which is also why the Crimea and the Donbas were not just a matter of national pride for the various governments operating out of Kiev.

By the turn of the millennium the GDP per capita of both had roughly halved. Then, in the Putin years there came astonishing growth in Russia, around 10 percent until 2014. This was the kind of growth which is impossible to retain for protracted periods; and not only did it slow, with a combination of sanctions and a drop in oil prices, there was a steep decline. And though it has risen since 2014, it is still not back to the figures of 2010. But compared to the previous decade substantial improvements had been made in the material conditions of most Russians.

In Ukraine the take off point occurs around the same time, but the rise is far less substantial, also followed by decline and moderate rise. Also noteworthy is the telling figure that in 2021 remittances made up 12 percent of GDP in Ukraine, foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2021 was a third of that—estimates at the beginning of the war, based upon the large outflow of refugees, were that remittances would increase by 8 percent. Yes, that increase in remittances as a percentage of GDP may be laid at the door of the Russians, but the figure of 2021 is the kind of figure that one associates with a country with economic opportunities which make leaving a smart economic move.

The other important part of the story is corruption. We hear much of Putin and his Russian oligarch cronies in the West—but I am astonished how poorly informed are most people, who are otherwise well educated, about oligarchs in Ukraine and the problems of corrupt government. As with Russia, state assets were dissolved into vouchers, and the vouchers were bought at bargain basement prices, or simply stolen by those with the know-how or muscle to do so.

Katya Gorchinskaya’s six part report, “A Brief History of Corruption” identifies the major players and plays which have left Ukrainians amongst Europe’s poorest and most corrupt nations. It begins with President Kravchuk, the first to hold power in post-Soviet Ukraine, presiding over the economic privatisation and resource gobbling.

Amongst those doing the gobbling were two Ukrainian Prime Ministers, one of whom would be successfully prosecuted in the US for money-laundering, fraud and extortion; another, Yulia Tymoshenko, would become the attractive poster face—along with Victor Yushchenko—of the Orange Revolution. Tymoshenko would eventually be prosecuted for a range of crimes, from embezzlement to involvement in the murder of another oligarch, Yevhen Shcherban, with Yushchenko himself being a witness against her.

Tymoshenko was found guilty of profiting from gas contracts signed with Russia. Although she found support amongst European human rights organizations (Yuschchenko begged to differ with their defence of her). During the 1990s she and her family had made their fortunes in energy and controlled the United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU). It was Ukraine’s largest gas trader, “supplying gas from Russia’s Gazprom to seven of Ukraine’s large industrial and agricultural regions.”

While the initial distribution of vouchers had initially enabled the oligarchs’ rise to power, Gorchinskaya sees the biggest asset grab as the work of politicians in 1998. As she writes: “The list of parliamentarians reads like the yellow pages of Ukraine’s future oligarchy.”

Politics and corruption are common bed-fellows. I hazard the obvious conjecture: the difference between them and Russian and Western politicians, who have made spectacular amounts of money after decades of public service, is that in Ukraine and Russia there was a brief moment of a bonanza round of assets available to them that made the usual grift seem like child’s play.

The scandals surrounding every President in the Ukraine parliament are easily discovered, and I don’t need to enter into more detail. In any case the headline from a piece in the Guardian in February 2015 sums it all up: “Welcome to Ukraine, the most corrupt nation in Europe.” It showed the West what everyone who lived there knew—that in spite of the victory over the Russian stooge/crook Yanukovich, in spite of the deaths, the noble speeches, the visits of US and European dignitaries, and promises of support, in spite of the flags, songs, international media coverage Ukraine was an economic and crime ridden dump—with magnificent scenery and a capital as beautiful as any city in the world. The article also pointed out that while “officials from the general prosecutor’s office, who were interviewed by Reuters, claimed that between 2010 and 2014, officials were stealing a fifth of the country’s national output every year,” nothing had improved.

Later that same year, a writer in Forbes magazine wrote a piece “Corruption is Killing Ukraine’s Economy.” As with Poroshensko, Zelensky, like the Presidents before him, was elected on the promise of ending corruption—though he also indicated he was the man to mend fences with Russia. He didn’t, and he wasn’t.

It is not simply the corruption I wish to underscore; it is that since the dismantling of the Soviet Union Ukraine has had two “revolutions,” and achieved nothing other than an outright civil war and a war with a great power. I don’t know how anyone who is impartial and not blinded by the patriotic fog and fervour accompanying the avoidance of the basics of international diplomacy can see it otherwise. And need I say that none of these problems—with the obvious exception of the war itself—can be traced back to Putin.

Turning to Russia, everyone of a certain age will recall that between the end of the Soviet Union and the Yeltsin years, Russia and the fall-out from its empire were in free-fall. Yeltsin had gone from being a hero of the people to a corrupt drunken buffoon. Oligarchs had taken over all the most important resources; and gangsters simply took over apartments; and the streets were not safe. The poverty was widespread and wretched.

And the reality of post-Soviet Russia made the drab days of Brezhnev and Andropov look like the golden years.

While people in the West were still celebrating Gorbachev and talking about him being a great man who changed the course of history, most Russians cursed him for creating the havoc they were living through. One cannot begin to understand Putin’s popularity if one does not concede the hell of Russia in the Yeltsin years—captured in videos of the period by images of the extremes of the old and recently rendered destitute standing on the streets huddled around a fire in the snow and ice with their knickknacks and baubles and pleading eyes; or the new phenomenon of Russian prostitution for export—the international sex trade really takes off with the end of communism—and the oligarchs and mafia with their great fur-coats, cruising by in their convoys of Western cars, and armies of protection. Stalin would not have allowed this, they reasoned. And you can say what you will about him, but he not only dressed with moderation, but he never draped his great big fur coats with gold chains, while pushing aside beggars on the way to the night club to snort blow and be blown by a girl who had drifted into the city to make some money.

Western journalists seem to think that when Putin speaks of the most terrible event being the end of the Soviet Union, that he is saying he loved communism. That is nonsense. He saw a once respected leading world power, a power, that for all its shockingness did export resources and training to those who fought on its side and from whom it saw geopolitical strategic advantage—I don’t want to get all maudlin about a system and regime that was ultimately a massive mass-murdering experiment and monstrous disaster (in no small part paid for by Western capitalists, as Anthony Sutton meticulously demonstrated). But I think to see that it was not only all for nothing; that whatever slim achievements it had made (and it would have made far more had it just been left to the autocrats prior to the Bolsheviks) had vanished along with the Soviet Union. In its place was a beggarly, broken state, of utter disorder— nothing resembling the Western commercialized sheen and shine images that one might have seen on television – but then again the sprawling tents of the homeless and junkies in Portland and San Francisco today bespeak a world resembling a similar kind of corruption, and ineptitude that Yeltsin and his mates were tolerating in Russia.

It is an odd thought, I know. But maybe what Putin said was rhetorically done for political purpose. But irrespective whether he is a “murdering swine,” as old an friend, Political Science ex-colleague, and mentor has posted on Facebook, Putin understood the rage of the humiliated, of a people who had been tricked out of the relative security—with all its scarcity—that the communist state provided, and thrown out of work and onto the streets. And he could see, as could the rest of the population, that all of this chaos was facilitated by the IMF and the Harvard Russian Project crew.

Moreover, aside from ex-party officials and their friends with their on-the-ground advantage and the armed to the teeth “wise guys” snapping up for peanuts, resources (energy and media/ communications being prime targets) worth billions and conning Russians out of, when not simply stealing, the vouchers, which were supposedly designed to distribute Soviet assets to “the people”—were Western grifters (like Bill Browder discussed below). It was a free for all in free-fall.

And on top of this were the Chechnyan terrorists and their bombs, deliberately killing innocent school children as well as adults. What made matters even worse was that Chechnyan rebels had been trained and funded by the CIA. That is a fact that Western journalists no doubt would like to put down to Russian propaganda. By the way, and lest I am sounding like the kind of left-wingers I usually take issue with for their blindness to the nature of markets, I have never been anti-everything the US does to protect its interests. But the incompetence of the US as a military and strategic power has become increasingly breathtaking, and its funding of such groups has brought nothing but havoc and understandable hatred of the West.

And, then, in the midst of this, Putin, who had been working for the mayor of Saint-Petersburg, facilitating foreign investments, and suspected of masterminding a kick-back scheme worth tens of millions of dollars, receiving a PhD for a work that had, in part at least, been plagiarised, were it even written by him, looked like just another junior on the grift “yes man” political operator had been given the nod by Yeltsin and backed by the oligarch Berezovsky, who came to regret misreading Putin’s character till the end of his life. Though, almost every Western documentary or biography depict Putin with the same sneering disbelief that this little jump-start still has power and struts around the world stage killing people, while great philanthropists and lovers of liberty like Berezovsky himself or Khodorkovsky were banished so that Putin could get nearly all of the pie.

In any case, not long after the tap on the shoulder Putin took on the oligarchs. Or, more precisely, sided with one bunch of oligarchs against another. It is fanciful to think that any political leader in Russia would have been able to survive without finding factional support amongst oligarchs— men who whose control extended to “armies” to do their bidding, protect their wealth, and trade (from arms running, to sex and drug trafficking, to gas and information). I think even the moralising denouncers of Putin don’t doubt that the level of criminality and the scale of violence of Russia’s oligarchy, and that that had touched ever part of Russia’s social fibre.

Quiz question: How would you have stopped it?

The manner in which the oligarchs accumulated their wealth as well as the tactics they deployed in defending it were all carried out in a manner befitting the kinds of weapons, financial conduits and systems, goods and services demand and supplies and political racketeering that are as mod con as mod con can possibly be: international banks laundered their money; politicians did their bidding by making deals and enacting laws that benefit them; shipping, planes and transport systems moved the girls and drugs, and immigrants with enough money to pay for their forged passports and relocation. Their computers and codes, and bank accounts in far-away lands, their hotels and majestic villas, clubs and casinos, private jets and helicopters, and yachts, their weapons and preferred drugs may have spoken of the unprecedented quality of the spoils of ill-gotten gain. But the motivation and operation were not really different from ancient tribes, or ancient and modern nations or empires seizing land and resources from enemies, or lords and kings providing their protection in return for services rendered (protection included their preparedness to not simply take everything from those they might crush were their offers of protection refused, to fighting off others desirous of those lands), or the cattle barons and robber barons, or the mafia, or those like Joe Kennedy who made a fortune out of prohibition. We accept that no one running for the presidency in the United States could be successful without finding wealthy political donors—or, at least, being an extremely rich person. But as with state foundations, the older the money the more likely it was to be founded in blood.

The way politics and wealth form a bond may vary by location, but the bond is universal, and the difference between what counts as corruption tends to also be bound up with merely how things gets done, and the wealthy get to keep their wealth and pay others to help them acquire more, and enact processes that assist their political preferences and priorities. “Not that there is anything wrong with that”—but journalists in the West tend to sleep at the wheel when it comes to following up leads that might bring down those who represent their political interests. People in far-away lands whose doings may safely be reported—even if the doings, as in the case of Putin, often (albeit not always) come from sources who also have their interests, which involve being rid of Putin.

In any case, the influence of oligarchs is no less decisive in the United States than it is in Russia. Yes, there is a rule of law, but while we may find exceptions, money generally still makes the laws.

The decisive difference between the West now and the Russia in which Putin came to power and outplayed his enemies is not in the role played by those who have the greatest wealth/control of the nations resources, it is in the timing: the violence and usurpation which provided the original sources of great wealth occurred generations back (not that long really in the USA, generally longer in the UK). And then—yes, I am really happy to go left when it is true—there was the piracy, the slavery, the colonialism. And of course it is not all in the past, where modern US “interventions” fit may vary, energy (and I don’t mean solar and wind farms) is a major factor in the West’s strategic and geopolitical decisions involving the Middle East.

This is not to make the false argument that therefore private property and capital should be eliminated, or that property is theft and all wealth ill-gotten, but commercial society is a late arrival, and where and whenever it arrives its existence requires historical and social preparedness provided by power, plunder, and protection rackets. Would that it were not so. But this is the problem with those who want to denounce Putin as if he were somehow an evil anomaly amongst those who really held power – it is so, and has ever been so. The desire it not be so is behind the ridiculous romanticization of indigenous life that originally afflicted Rousseau and now the infantilized moralizing West and its children.

The people Putin went after were amongst, or would become, the richest, the most influential people on the planet—not only financially, but also in terms of the importance of the resources they controlled for shaping the world; the other two most famous examples, apart from Berezovsky, being the media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky, who would go on to pose as a kind of religious and spiritual beacon by becoming the Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress (a gesture that would give all the Russian anti-Semites evidence to sit alongside their copies of The Protocols of Elders of Zion; he had previously cofounded and become President of the Russian Jewish Congress), and the banker, energy magnate, convicted, imprisoned and then pardoned criminal, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Like Berzovsky, they spend much time in exile, screaming loudly about Putin’s unprecedented wickedness (comparable, so they said to… yes, of course, who else? Adolf Hitler) to a media ready to quote them on the latest body or scandal that could be attributed to Putin and his henchmen. It seemed that Putin had nothing better than do to send out armed assassins all over the globe to silence all his critics and political opponents, because he was not only completely paranoid but his whole view of the world was picked up from KAOS in Get Smart.

Khodorkovsky has been lauded as a man of great principle by standing to face trial. This did present him with the opportunity to portray himself as a political martyr, going to prison for his belief in the sanctity of human rights and the future of democracy. The West lapped it up and lauds him still. I have a bridge with a spectacular harbour view to sell you at a discount price of ten million dollars if you actually believe Khodorkovsky has turned his life around to become a human rights activist from being a gangster and in all likelihood a murderer. It would be interesting to actually do a comparative body count between them if we could locate them.

As we skim over Putin and his “autocratic” government, let us keep before us what I consider the one issue that is both indisputable and all important—Putin drastically improved the lives of most Russians. No matter how much more peaceful and prosperous the Russians may have been under the political leadership of Tony Blair, or Boris Johnson, or Joe Biden, or George Bush Jr, or Bill Clinton—does anyone seriously think these men have the kind of competence that would mend a fallen state? Putin was the guy at the head who turned things round. If we were doing moral examinations of politicians, I am happy to concede that Vladimir would probably have to get an F—though among Western moral paragons, I don’t see any who would get a Pass in those circumstances.

But, but…surely, they are better than him? Well, that depends whether you think that having salvaged and then ridding a state of enemies that threaten to bring it back into chaos is a crime (I assume much of which I read is true; though, as the next piece/section shows Western media has manufactured such a long and egregious litany of lies that I simply cannot be sure of anything it reports). Here too is a question—and it is the kind of question that political leaders in times of social crisis and havoc have to confront, and I will pose it by way of a historical case.

Given what we know about Russia’s rapid advances and modernization and economic growth just prior to the Great War, and given what we know about the scale of murder inflicted by the Bolsheviks, did the Czar’s failure of will (and that of his generals) contribute to the tens of millions who died after? The answer is not difficult—yes it did. Posed so starkly, the issue of the sheer ability to stomach the infliction of more violence upon “one’s own people” (there’s that phrase again) is irrelevant. Perhaps the failure of will came from a sense of moral horror at what world the Tzar was making and the choices he had to make, or perhaps it came from an inability to see who and what this new elite political elite were.

In any case, he relinquished power, to be sure not quite to those as violently wilful as Lenin, but still to those who themselves were not strong enough to do anything but pass the power that they had not come by legitimately to those with political wills of steel, though recall Lenin’s famous phrase that “found power lying in the streets and simply picked it up.” They were capable of killing more “of their own people” in a few months than the Czars had killed in a century. In short, tens of millions of lives might have been saved had the autocracy in Russia been prepared to kill more people, possibly hundreds of thousands more, possibly millions. In any case, the gap between body counts would have been huge, and the autocracy would have also spared Russia not only from the gulags but communism itself—which as an old joke goes was the longest way of getting from capitalism to capitalism.

Unlike philosophers in their classrooms and studies, rulers in times of great crisis, stand at crossroads where the alternate paths to the future, each with its own trials and troubles awaiting, are completely covered by the fog of the present– the consequences may be untold millions of deaths; the choice maybe—as it was for the Czar, then, as I think it is for Putin, certainly as I think he sees it. It is a choice between steeling one’s political will even though the circumstances of the time offer only differences in the amount of blood to be shed. And there is simply no way of knowing for sure how much blood there must be and where it will end.

Academicians in the main and journalists are generally utterly lacking in seriousness on such matters—in part that is because the academicians make their observations in the safe sequestered ‘play’ spaces which wall out reality—only in such a place so partitioned from the problems of the real could people dream up the ideas of trigger warning, safe spaces, and micro-aggression. Unlike the news hosts at home, those journalists who enter the fray, as opposed to those hanging out in hotel bars waiting for a story to send in, tend to report a very different story to the propaganda oozing out at home.

When rulers get it wrong they are but stepping names toward players and events which are recorded on account of the scale of their horror. The horrific event prevented, though, remains invisible, so the statesman who is successful in preventing the event rarely is recognized (Kennedy is one of the few perhaps who is renowned for a successful preventative call—but that call was on a palpably visible enemy with immediate consequence that were not hard to imagine). This is the situation of Putin now toward Ukraine, and it is another reason why the various moral denouncements bespeak a smugness and assuredness that comes from the safeness of the study or newsroom.

When considering Putin’s actual body count, on any possible measure—including the Chechen War which he can be credited with winning, and this one which is fading day by day from the West’s interests (Will Smith punching Chris Rock seems to be the big story of the moment), we can say without equivocation the numbers pale into insignificance when compared to the untold millions of dead in the Iraq and Afghan wars, in Yemen, and Syria, and in the bombing of Belgrade. My point was primarily that to believe that Putin has done more evil than the motley crew who rule over us, and who we are supposed to consider to be morally superior to Putin. That Putin is Hitler and our leaders are saints? In the case of the Bushes, Clinton, Blair et. al. they have achieved nothing; they have saved no people’ they have left behind more ruin. This is not even a moral judgment; it is merely a statement of fact that these men made disastrous geopolitical choices, that they, not Putin, are largely responsible for why China, Russia, Iran, etc. do not want to be part of the international order. Need I say they are all globalists? That their regime change dream/drive was a grotesque fantasy? And I am supposed to believe that Putin’s hostility to NATO is unwarranted? That he is really Hitler?

I know there were plenty of journalists who criticized the Bushes and Blair (Clinton bombing of Serbia not so much), though they generally cheered on Trump’s swift response to Assad supposedly using chemical weapons in Syria (I think Trump was really played on that one—see reports from Vanessa Beeley). But it is one thing to be anti-war on some moral principle because you have a conscience, as opposed to being the person dealing with the fate of nations. There the question is never answered by the principle: war is evil, therefore I should abolish the army along with prisons, and while at it take a knee. It is only answered by an ability that is a gift of few and is completely uncanny: knowing in spite of all the fog, all the hostility (consider Churchill), that one is right and that action must be taken. And when the action is taken, it must be successful. I may have seen the Afghan and Iraq Wars very differently if they were fought for people that shared a common sense of spiritual purpose with their “liberators” (which they never did) and if they really did assist in nation-building, which it did not know how to do because there was neither common purpose nor real plan.

Of the War in Ukraine I cannot be sure that Putin will come out well—I have no crystal ball; but it is not all in his hands. He has calculated that the West will not respond with nuclear weapons, or act in such a way that he sees that there is no other alternative. He shares common purpose with the breakaway republics and Crimea—it seems that as long as Ukraine becomes a buffer state, and does what that requires then war will stop. But that is no easy matter for those Ukrainians who since the Maidan have been able to fuel their dreams of a new nation devoid of its Russian presence and past, who have exercise influence in institutions they will no longer have: they either have to retreat back into the obscurity of every-day life, and hope they are not informed upon, or face imprisonment if not execution. They have much to fight for. But so does Russia.

Both the matters of Putin’s rise to power and this war and its meaning also serve to remind us of the importance of an idea that seems largely lost to the modern imagination with that entirely false “theolo-philosophical” doctrine that human beings are basically good. The untruth of this proposition has bought in its train the psychological malformation of so many modern youth who believing in their original innocence believe that all the sins of their forefather can be washed away by moral pronouncements and denunciations of the forefathers who helped accrue the ill-gotten gains that have contributed to the wealth of the nation in general, and their global “privilege.”

The culture wars, which as I have indicated are but a prelude to blood wars, are an example of what befalls a people when it fails to see what it is doing because of its ambition and pride. Had the children of the 1960s not believed in their own perfectness, and in their own innocence what we are living through in the West may not have come to pass. This sense of innocence and the existential privilege that has come from the doing of their forefathers is a major factor in the shallowness of their perspective on every serious subject, including this one. They are a generation for whom moral decisions and appraisals on each and every topic come as natural as breathing.

And this generation has entered swiftly into the fray: Ukrainian flags abound on social media; anti-Russian sentiments and slogans along with pro-Ukrainian and anti-Russian podcasts are everywhere. Mainstream media has finally found a topic where even Fox and CNN and the rest find complete common cause—sanctifying Zelensky/Ukraine; demonizing Putin/Russia. Making an eternal enemy of Russia will be on the head of this generation who holds power, but knows not how to exercise it, and a younger generation who only want to pull the nature of power ever more in a direction that makes the United States even more hateful to its enemies. All in all, it is done by a powerful idiocracy who do not know where they are heading, nor about what they speak—but they do know what pronoun they should be addressed by.

When considering Ukraine, we saw that it was one failed political leader after another; and to state what I think is obvious but which goes against the consensus of the moment, Zelensky is by far the worst because of his recklessness and failure to preserve the peace—which is one of the key variables of evaluation of political leadership.

Last year I reviewed a book by Grigory Yavlinsky, The Putin System: An Opposing View. Yavlinsky argues his case against Putin, methodically and comprehensively (and without screaming, “But he is a murderer”). It is a serious enough case about the benefits to be had by Russia going West; and the book’s economic analysis highlights weaknesses in the Russian economy in general, and Putin’s role in its mismanagement. Though I think the weak part of the book is his understanding of politics, Yavlinsky is not only an Economics Professor, but he has been a political candidate. In his attempt to gain political office, he managed to get less than 2 percent of the vote. At one stage in his book, Yavlinsky concedes that given its recent past and the sentiments and priorities of Russians, he thinks that Russia must continue for the immediate future with what he considers to be its mistaken economic and political policies, until it inevitably comes to its senses.

Given Russia’s conditions after the dismantling of the Soviet Union, and the state of the institutions still in operation, and the mentality of Russia’s population—and the crooks running the place—had it not been Putin it would have had to have been someone of much the same ilk who would have risen to power, if there were to be secure stability in Russia. If not Putin—Khodorkovsky? Would he have been a better political leader? Would someone more like the Ukrainian ineffectual and corrupt politicians be better?

Putin emerged out of the failed state—and the problems that he faced were not of his own making. Were his choices the best? I doubt that any politician would make the best choices. Even if it were the case that Putin may be guilty of all accusations against him—from plundering state funds to murder—in his political fights with oligarchs controlling media and energy and banks, I think it very understandable why the majority of Russians are prepared to look past the accusations levelled at him, and, Western media to the contrary, not think that they would be better off under the kind of “democracy” that a Khodorkovsky might engineer.

One might respond, but without an open society how would you know? And my only response is—an “open society” is a neat phrase, for each and every society has as much openness as its culture, institutional development, and social historicity, and political ruling class have.

After what I have witnessed in the West in the time of COVID, the mass destruction of small businesses here in Australia, the destruction of the livelihoods and right to protest by truckers in Canada, the toleration of mass burnings, and looting in the United State, on the one hand, with, what a mere few years back, would have been unimaginable with the draconian and haphazard treatment, charges and sentences of some of the January 6 protestors and rioters, and the extent of censorship and corporate and state control over speech.

And just as in Russia, large numbers of people support authoritarian decisions which they think suits their interests. To claim that the West is an “open society” is hard to take seriously. We live in a society that once was fairly open, but is now closing up, second by second, right before our eyes, Russians live in a society whose brief period of openness was one of plunder, assassinations and general mayhem.

Failed states don’t and indeed cannot simply turn into democracies—as if democracies, that are not just nominal facades for oligarchical vote-buying, election-rigging, paramilitaries, etc., are not themselves the result of the evolution of a sufficiently widespread dispersion of power blocks and class resource pooling. Consider how the working-class democratic parties evolved at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The damage that liberal democracies are now doing to themselves is shocking. But the damage the United States and its allies have done in countries, where the choice was not and could not have been between democracy and non-democracy but between one strong man or another, is even more shocking in the sheer number of deaths that it has facilitated, along with the battles and wars still raging.

Finally, failed states inevitably break down into war-lordism, and the securing of strong foundations is the result of the formation of bonds of social, economic, cultural, and political solidarity. These need time. Until then, the struggle between the warlords continues; and I do not deny for a second this is not happening—on the contrary, it is because it is happening that Russia—and countries with histories extremely different from the West, including Ukraine—will continue to get low scores on human rights and various other indices of freedom.

But to acknowledge that Putin has strong control over the media is not to say that the West should be spending billions trying to destabilize this regime. Yes Putin controls a media landscape formerly controlled by oligarchs wanting to destroy him (as now do Western media oligarchs). Prior to Trump’s election I would have agreed the United States safeguarded freedom of expression that made it a free country which Russia is not. When people now want to end this kind of equivocation and bluntly ask: where would you rather live? Leaving aside the obvious wealth gap between my country and Russia and the standard of living I enjoy here in Australia—which is a matter of very different political and economic histories—when it comes to where I would feel freer, I think it is really is a matter of what the issue is.

I believe that were I still employed by an Australian university and this paper came to light, I would most definitely lose my job. Indeed, certainly in Anglo speaking Western countries, there are now a far greater array of topics—all of which connect with a globalising-technocratic-identity based view of life—which now require strict conformity and compliance than I think is the case in Russia. But it is not only freedom of speech that has been lost.

Indeed, with the help of corporations, government reach has extended into ever space once considered part of one’s private property, extending from one’s bank account to one’s own body. Is it really any wonder why there is such a very large number of writings claiming the Pandemic was a “Plandemic?” Certainly, there is overwhelming evidence that the Bill Gates Foundation was preparing itself for a pandemic that would require a vaccine to stop it – and Peter McCulloch has plausibly asked why were so many resources put into vaccines rather than in the study of preventative methods and cures. Certainly, there are questions about the source of COVID. And the answer to anyone who want to dig away is: “You are a conspiracy theorist.”

Once upon a time when there was an old left (which I have always thought had more going for it in terms of critiquing geopolitical overreach, military overread, corporate criminality etcetera than identity progressivism), it was considered reasonable to ask questions about the machinations of corporations and the state. In today’s world, merely asking such questions in the West is evidence of being the dupe and purveyor of a conspiracy theory. Is this not a degree of mind control far beyond anything that occurs in Russia?

Russia, under Putin, is an obstacle to globalism and hence to the raison d’être of what the West has become (not what it is becoming, but what it is in essence now) for one main reason: it refuses to follow the globalist technocratic dream—as with China, where it is technocratic it is not globalist. That Russia has been seen by the United States Government as a patient in need of the cure of Westernization has never been a secret, but Victoria Nuland put a figure on the amount spent on the “cure” in 2015 when she said: “The United States alone has spent more than $20 billion dollars since 1992 to help Russia strengthen and open its economy.”

Would anyone other than a “factchecker” seriously think that a substantial amount of that money was not used for “regime change?” Which brings me to the final part of this lengthy essay—the lies. As Putin famously quipped the West is an “empire of lies.” I wish it were not so.

4. The Empire Of Lies

We are presently confronted with all sorts of images and reports about the war which are meant to convince that Russia is being outfought; the Russian state on the brink of regime change; its brutality almost beyond measure as it targets civilians and schools and hospitals; its soldiers despondent and on the verge of revolt; and that Russia indulges in false flag operations and sells fake news to its people; defeat is imminent.
Other sources, some of which I have mentioned above, tell a very different story, a story in which the Ukrainians are providing plenty of fake images and false narratives, lots of “wag the dog” to Western media outlets. These sources are inevitably countered with “that’s just Russian propaganda.” It is “us” versus “them,” and “they” are liars. The biggest lie thus far concerns the West and which the media, working in conjunction with politicians, have tried to cover. It has to do with the US funded biolabs operating in Ukraine.

A report in the Daily Mail (a real rag, I grant, but one that occasionally goes against the grain of consensus) reported yesterday that Hunter Biden’s laptop (remember that suppressed story that was supposed to be Russian disinformation, but, as anyone who digs around knows, was not) seems to confirm the claim that Hunter Biden helped finance a US military “bioweapons” research program in Ukraine. And there we were all thinking that between the coke, the hookers, that stuff with Beau’s widow, and some other fishy stuff that really riled up some family members about Hunter’s sexual transgressions, and the graft that Hunter was not up to much at all, except perhaps convincing his pop that blacks needed free crack pipes.

Whether this connection turns out to be true or not is not the main issue though, because whatever Hunter did to get the money for sitting on the board at Burisma (in any case most of those who knew what was on his laptop though was far less of a scandal than the Biden China money), the evidence for the existence of US funded biolabs is overwhelming—nothing less than official US documents. Their existence confirms the investigations of Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, who in 2018 reported that “The US Army regularly produces deadly viruses, bacteria and toxins in direct convention on the prohibition of Biological Weapons.”

Victoria Nuland—now the current Under Secretary of State—blew her chance Marco Rubio offered when fishing for her to give an unequivocal denial about the labs, when she said that it would be a very dangerous thing if the research from the labs were to fall into Russian hands. Honestly, it just goes to show what a brainless bunch are running this shitshow. Maybe they are just as dumb on Putin’s team. I have no clue. But let’s go back to the lies and murk surrounding the event that kicked off the Ukrainian civil war, the Maidan—or, for those wanting the whole thing to have amounted to something noble, “The Revolution of Dignity.”

Whatever one calls it and however one views it—the Maidan created far more problems than it solved. It was not really a step into Europe. You will recall that the EU had all manner of looming problems, including the rumbling discontents that led to Brexit; and the EU was in no position to embrace a country of such poverty, with such a sizable population. It was also not the 1980s, and, Russia aside, there was no Soviet empire, which was a serious threat as opposed to a fabricated one.

There were still consequences from the financial crisis, a debt problem spearheaded by Greece (who were starting to depict their German EU masters as Nazis), and Central and Eastern Europeans were often ungrateful and difficult members for an organization that had made Germany the geopolitical hegemon of Western Europe (even Mutti was such a sweety, how could anyone question her führerschaftliche—sorry we must use the English now—leadership skills). And that was not even taking into account the inevitable Russian response, which was also why, in spite of all the love between Ukraine and NATO, it is true, as critics of Russia’s invasion say, Ukraine was not, de jure at least, invited into NATO. It did oust one corrupt President only to replace him with another, and it raised the wrath of Russia, led to the secession of the Crimea (some prefer the word “invasion,” which I think is simply a misuse of a good word), and created an ongoing Civil War; as well the carrying out of various acts of persecution and media censorship of Russian-speaking media outlets. If that is a success, I don’t know what failure would be like.

In any case, if the Maidan were a “Revolution of Dignity,” it is difficult to see in what exactly that “Dignity” consisted of? Getting some bundles of money from foreign governments and foreign NGOs, money that disappeared into the vast coffers of the oligarchs and their political cronies? Yes, we have pictures of Victoria Nuland, then the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, and (at last check) wife of leading Republican neo-con, Robert Kagan (please tell me there is no swamp or political ruling class), handing out coffee and cookies, or sandwiches to the protestors in 2014. So maybe some people got something substantial out of it. But, in the main, what was acquired were slogans and a public image of a nation of “heroes” fighting for their “dignity.”

The event itself had many layers and players. The West primarily saw pictures of the floods of protestors “spontaneously” (as if any protest does not require communication, organization and when, it is protracted in nature, funding) seeking to overthrow an elected government—even if a corrupt one. But if the sheer scale of public protest were the critical issue, would any Western government that has had to deal with widespread protests have survived? Maggie Thatcher at the time of the Falklands War or the poll tax? Macron with the Yellow Vests? Trump or Biden with everyone on the other side? Trudeau with the truckers, etc.? Was Yanukovych really more vicious in suppressing the protestors than Trudeau or Macron? How one answers that very much depends on who one thinks was doing the sniping at the protestors that moved the event into another level of international outrage.

Given that most Westerners knew nothing about the event except what they had seen flickering on their screens, or possibly even read with more diligence in their daily newspapers, the answer was they did not know very much. And in the murky far-away land, the idea that the American government and George Soros, and neo-Nazis played an important role in the event was rarely reported by the mainstream media—and a year or two later even the main stream media released a trickle of stories about the pernicious institutional influence of the Azov Battalion.

But at the time of the Maidan, there was generally little interest in a media landscape still having a love-fest with Obama, and even less interest in a story that would expose a winner of the Nobel Prize for peace as the instigator of a coup. As for Soros, one is immediately consigned to the loony bin marked “conspiracy theorist,” if one merely mentions his name and his financing of the various front organizations he uses around the world to assist in his—very publicly expressed—endgame of creating “an open society.” Some of you may know how he likes to credit the philosopher Karl Popper for his vision and philosophy—poor Karl.

The Soros money-trail is important in the story, which does not mean that the hundreds of thousands of protestors were simply conjured out of thin air and were merely summoned by the dosh: yes the overwhelming number of the protestors were there spontaneously expressing their political will– some though, especially those involved in organizational tactics were on the pay roll. Events like these are occasions for interested players to seek to get their way. Though, invariably the instigators trying to direct the course of history get way, way more than they bargained for—“Hey, we wanted you to kill the Ruskies, Osama, not blow up our Twin Towers you ungrateful #&%^&%^!”

The following is from the Open Society web site, about one of its organizations, the International Renaissance Foundation, in Ukraine: “By 1994, the International Renaissance Foundation was the biggest international donor in the country, with an annual budget of roughly $12 million for projects that ranged from retraining tens of thousands of decommissioned soldiers to the creation of a contemporary arts center in Kyiv. In the early 2000s, the foundation oriented itself around European integration, while mobilizing resources to help those affected by conflict after Russia’s invasion and illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Over its lifetime, the foundation has supported more than 18,000 projects, benefiting millions of people.”

Now, consider again the problems of GDP per capita, corruption, the oligarchs, and the neo-Nazis in Ukraine and ask: Has this foundation achieved anything of lasting value in the country? If your answer is yes, let me raise the bridge-sale prospect again. Also, what exactly does “mobilizing resources” mean? For a man dedicated to creating a more open society, there sure is lots of murk here.

There is plenty of information out there on Soros, though algorithms now make the digging harder. But one can commence with just going through his organizations, investigating what they do, and hunting around to see who are involved. Lee Stranahan, former Huntington Post and then Breitbart journalist, and now at Sputnik News, has done a lot of that digging on Soros and his organizations, and Ukraine, as well as the fake Russia narrative and Ukraine’s role in it. I suggest you dig it up and see for yourselves whether it is just Russian propaganda—his sources are open and checkable.

When the Maidan broke out, one genuinely intrepid journalist who was on the ground, and had a track record of uncovering stories, and not merely repeating what was picked up in press releases and official pronouncements. He had previously broken the Iran-Contra story and blown the lid on the involvement of the CIA in cocaine trafficking. He was Robert Parry (1949-2018). He could scarcely believe the misinformation and outright lies, the sheer propaganda that Western media was publishing. He was there watching it all unfold and wrote regular reports. This is from one the piece “Phony ‘Corruption’ Excuse for Ukraine Coup” (2016):

If Ukraine becomes a flashpoint for World War III with Russia, the American people might rue the day that their government pressed for the 2014 overthrow of Ukraine’s allegedly corrupt (though elected) president in favour of a coup regime led by Ukrainian lawmakers who now report amassing, on average, more than $1 million each, much of it as cash.

The New York Times, which served as virtually a press agent for the coup in February 2014, took note of this apparent corruption among the U.S.-favoured post-coup officials, albeit deep inside a story that itself was deep inside the newspaper (page A8). The lead angle was a bemused observation that Ukraine’s officialdom lacked faith in the country’s own banks (thus explaining why so much cash).”

There have since been other accounts of the event, most notably the documentaries directed by Igor Lopatonok and produced by Oliver Stone; Ukraine on Fire (that had briefly been de-platformed but now carries the “offensive/ inappropriate” warning, but is available on Rumble) that appeared in 2016; Revealing Ukraine (carries the “offensive/ inappropriate” warning on You Tube; see it on Rumble) in 2018; and most recently, The Everlasting Present. Ukraine: 30 Years of InDependence (sic.) There are numerous comments posted on You Tube saying that Lopatonok’s films are all Russian propaganda bs—though none supply any evidence to prove this.

That there was US meddling is impossible to refute, given Nuland’s infamous conversation with US ambassador to the Ukraine about who was the right man for the top job; and McCain standing alongside Svoboda (the neo-Nazi political party) leader Oleh Tyahnybok, as well as dining with other Neo-Nazis and addressing protestors in the square. Why? For “freedom” and “dignity,” of course.

Back to International Relations 101. Imagine, would the US not have seen the presence of a major Russian political figure publicly encouraging revolt in a country in its sphere as a sign of interference and aggression? Oh, and let’s not forget what was known back in 2016 for those who were following closely that Ukraine played a leading part in the whole Russia-gate lie—a suspicious man might think the Democrats were calling in favours. But how could that possibly be, the Democrats are the moral paragons?

To anyone unfamiliar with the role of Ukraine in what has been the great big porky pie of the Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, as told to the US public by the establishment media, and embellished by congressional hearings, false documents involving urinating prostitutes (apparently to pleasure one of the world’s most famous germaphobe), false testimonies of FBI and CIA agents, false FISA warrants, the spying of one regime upon a potential and then elected president and his team, and books about Trump being cultivated by the Russians, spawning a report—that it seems its overseer, Robert Mueller, did not even read very carefully—a report that came up with… nothing. Well, OK, it came up with the conclusion that the President may have obstructed justice, not bad given how that led to the imprisonment of retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn. But even that didn’t work.

Trump, for many including me, is the most important president since the Second World War, even more so than Regan in one all-important way: it was during his term that the divide within the United States of America reached a breaking-point of no return. I can agree with the never-Trumpers that such a man being elected was a sign of moral decay, though unlike them I agreed with his supporters that his greatest virtue, amongst countless vices, private and public, was his utter refusal to cower in the face of endless adversity. And then there is the issue of the 2016 two-horse race: one candidate had made a fortune out of shonky real estate deals, and fleecing gullible students and investors; the other had started her fortune by a legal, property flip scam preying on retirees who could not meet the small print requirements, which allowed her and Bill and other cronies to take back and resell the assets—that, and all the stuff in Clinton Cash, of trading political influence for dosh.

There was simply no other position that one could take once he was elected than being against him, or not so much for him, but against those who were against him because they could not abide by the usual protocols of truth and decency, and the most fundamental requirement for the persistence of democracy, acceptance of electoral defeat. An anti-democratic virus swept through the media, the courts, the Senate and Congress, and ate into friendships and families. The Cold Civil War had begun, and its centre was exaggerated fears, and lies.

I have never been interested in Trump’s hyperbole, which was part and parcel of his character, and the common way of all politicians (though he had a pretty clever way, as Scott Adams observed, of coming up with sling-shots to hit his enemies—”crooked Hilary,” “Lying Ted,” etc.) and which were often treated as literal directives/claims (“drink the disinfectant and be cured of COVID”). And the lies that were obviously lies (like how Stormy Daniels was not paid to keep her mouth shut), as opposed to what the media said were lies but weren’t—were the kinds of things that only mattered in a world where there were some common core values and national commitments. I was more sympathetic to the plight of his regionally located working-class supporters, who had been getting the raw deal of globalization and who were treated as stupid because they objected to the urban smarties, stars, and monied people telling them what to think and accept as normal and desirable—and ensuring their wages were never going to go up. It wasn’t the lies about Trump as such that I found so reprehensible, it was the lies enabling the rapid and destructive impact of a ruling class whose faux compassion, spiritual emptiness and self-indulgent sense of its own rectitude and entitlement to rule not only the United States of America but the rest of the planet, was destroying what had once been seen as the global centre of creative ingenuity, enterprise and independent-mindedness.

And at the centre of those lies were the universities that had originally crafted and inculcated these lies in their more highfalutin versions, and the mainstream media whose lies about the “facts” were as flies to the sandpaper of a nihilistic and stupid mindset. Their lies led to what we have now: a mainstream media that is but a megaphone of the globalist world that they, like their employers and most of the political and global capitalist class, share. One will, of course, recall, that of all Trump’s promises (one he did not fulfil), the key to his platform and support base was, “build the wall.” The national labor-capital nexus (that had by the way been a key plank of the Democrats even in the 1990s)—as opposed to global capital-labour (that had been the Republican rallying position)—meant nothing, if there were no nation, and if capital flow paid no heed to the labour of citizens.

Victor David Hanson, whom I admire so much, but disagree with so deeply about this war, was absolutely right to see the issue of citizenship and its loss at the heart of Trump and his victory and defeat. Angelo Codevilla, another International Relations expert, initially someone rather contemptuous of Trump before seeing what the issue really had become, saw that this was a kind of last stand for the republic (this idea is mocked in the television drama the Succession, which is the kind of clever confused irrelevance that feasts the mind of a dying culture).

Open borders was the desired end that the Democrats could not present as policy in government, but could do all in their power to enable whilst in opposition, was ever a way of bringing about the end of citizenship. The power to bestow citizenship has always been the prerogative of peoples and their government (and it still is the official Democrat position). But this was the issue that defined Trump as a racist, and thus made of him and his supporters something less than human—and it was the issue that the media and their masters most lied about.

The initial big piece of deceit—the concealment of information, just prior to the election—was the suppression of Hilary Clinton’s private email server, which meant there would never be a public record of how she combined official affairs of state with private fund-raising. History has a funny way of repeating itself—just prior to the 2020 election, there was another story crying out for reporting that journalists wanted to know nothing about. That was Hunter Biden’s missing lap-story, a story that just keeps leaking out. Here though what is an important part of the repetition with a difference was the part that has direct bearing on how the current war is being sold in the West as a war of Western freedom and truthfulness versus those lying deceitful Russian conquerors. Not only did the journalists not follow up on the missing laptop by going and investigating and reporting the startling materials it contained, they accepted a completely concocted story—a lie by any other name—that it was a Russian false-flag/piece of disinformation.

This lie that had the authority behind it of a pack of liars in the intelligence and military services, whose task in a normal democracy was to serve the administration of the elected president. But by 2020, lies were unquestionable truth: Trump supported and did not condemn white supremacists in Charlottesville; Justice Kavanaugh was a rapist; the Floyd riots of 2020 were not violent, the expressions of grief for a martyr to justice; Kyle Rittenhouse was a white supremacist; the January 6 riot of 2021 was an “insurrection” and there was no hidden Antifa presence. Indeed, there were so many lies that even leftist journalists like Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, Jimmy Dore, (and ex-Bernie supporter) Tim Pool could not bear the toxic sludge.

But the lies and deceptions, as I have indicated, were not only coming from the media, nor from politicians, who one expects to lie so they can gain/retain power. The fact that the term “deep-state” became so widely used by podcasters and journalists who were critical of the political misbehaviour and lies, including those of high-ranking CIA and FBI, was a symptom of the scale of the problem—and not, as the mainstream journalists would have it that it was all proof of the widespread influence of the crazy conspiracy whack-job Q Anon.

The feverishness of the mindset of the elite reached such extraordinary levels of panic that the highest officials in the intelligence agencies and army thought it their duty to protect the people from the man that the people had voted into office by withholding information, leaking confidential memos, or bald-facedly lying to him. The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley, of his own initiative, assured his Chinese counterpart that if ordered to attack China by the President, he would not do so. In normal times this would have been called what it was—treason. But this was a time when generals and admirals could not line up quickly enough to publicly defy their commander-in-chief.

It was also, and still is, a time so completely crazed that its ruling class appointed a man to the most important military position in the world, and chief military advisor to the most powerful man in the world, who is so stupid that he not only cannot see what anyone other than a complete brainwashed nincompoop can—that critical race theory is just a pile of half-baked truths and total bollocks that rival in historical nuance any primary school book the Nazis or communist had their kiddies read—but that he thought the armed forces should also get down and study it. Heck, why stop at burning and looting stores and cities, let’s take the peaceful protests into base camps.

After 2016 what now was evident to all was that the media, the academy, the deep state, schools, and the majority of those presiding over US political and legal institutions had all allied themselves with one political party. And while they were happy to hand out the megaphones to the never-Trumpers, who never understood what was going on in the world—Trump is evil/ Putin is evil/Hitler is evil, ergo…. Together they all conspired (oh, there’s that word again!) in the compete destruction of the independence of these institutions, as well as their essential function within the preservation of liberty and democracy.

So arrogant and blind to their own admixture of uncontrollable ambition, and the limits of their intelligence and knowledge were they that it seems none of the Democrats, whether politicians, professors, judges, journalists or other leading professions thought to get together with their pals and ask: did the people vote for that philandering clownish scam artist fraud because we were total rubbish? Had they asked the question and sought to stop being “total” rubbish—instead, of being mere rubbish like Trump’s Team, they doubled down. And as Molly Ball infamously let the cat out of the bag, formed “a well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information.”

Instead of looking at their own failings to connect with such a substantial part of the American people, by thoughtfully exploring how they might assist in making the USA a far less sorry and stupid place than it is today, they denounced anyone who didn’t think like them. They didn’t ask the question because they just wanted to save their own pathetic asses so they could continue to “lead” the charge in the destruction of very basic common sense and decency. These people—irrespective of their race, gender, sexual proclivity, limb “able-ness”—are to the end of democracy what the French frock-wearing puff-powder-wig lot in 1788 were to the end of the “ancient regime.” And they then had the temerity to dream up the term “white privilege” to abuse and crush the political voices of people who struggle to put food on the table and pay school bills, and the shameless cunning to paint the whites who voted against them as white supremacists along with the blacks and peoples of colour as their brainwashed lackeys.

And to rub the noses of the people whose hatred they could never fathom, they engineered the electoral victory of Joe Biden – did they really think the white trash and their Uncle Tom allies, who were so desperate to stop the social break down, and economic decline that they were living in that they voted for Trump, did not notice that the Du Pont family and their man Biden, and most of the whole zillionaire crowd backing the Democrats and a whole bunch of Democrat leaders—Pelossi, Schumer, Schiff etc.etc. were as wealthy as they were white. And making Harris VP was also a real strike against privilege.

One can hear them sitting round deciding who would be Joe’s back up, and provide the true face of diversity: “Yeah, yeah, we know her family had piles of money. Ok, so she is not really (US) black. Come on man/ sorry I meant ZI is black enough—the people will love her, especially when she cracks up. And you know out there is some poor starry-eyed black child brought up in a crack-house (yeah, we should give them a free crack pipe—I know that was Hunter’s idea)—thinking she too could be in the White House just like Obama and now Kamala. We need to get hold of Harvey. Sorry, he’s preoccupied at the moment, I mean Steve to make a biopic her—and throw in an ending in which the kid is President. Hey, pass the blow, Joe.” “Yeah,” the more profound among them reflected, “but it’s us—or Hitler.”

From the moment that Trump won the election, and celebrities, many of whom years earlier had schmoozed up to him in their talk-shows and parties, even encouraged him to run for politics, began to tell everyone that he was a tyrant. And just in case people didn’t get it, a production of Julius Caesar—with Caesar made to appear like Trump—was put on in Central Park, where the audience would feel great that a living replica of the “tyrant” had been stabbed to death. Surely, he was a tyrant, even that Yale historian Timothy Snyder (before he became a regular on the political talk show circuit, he had been a serious professor of history) had written a book saying the same thing—and to prove it he pointed out that back in the 1930s American fascists wanted to make America great again too, and so Trump was just like Benito Mussolini. Trump was such a tyrant that there were calls for his impeachment, before he had enacted any policies—and to repeat, there was not a single policy that was not previously part of the consensus of all Western democracies.

And as for wanting to cooperate Russia, hadn’t it been Bernie Sanders who flew off to a have his honeymoon in the USSR (you’ve got to hand it to Bernie; he really knows how to sweep a girl off her feet) to establish sister city relations with a Russian city, and wasn’t it Obama who, thinking he was off mic told the then President Medvedev that he would have more “flexibility in dealing with Russia after the election”? But when Trump wanted to do that – well shebang. That was bigger than World War Three. And how could anyone let Trump be in charge of the nuclear button. It didn’t matter what the issue anything that Trump did was a source of utter hysteria, though generally it was things he didn’t do but that people said he had done that led those more suited to politics actually having something to do with reality to describe what was happening around them as Trump Derangement Syndrome—an adaptation of the term that Krauthammer (a former Mondale Democrat, and stolid anti-Trump Republican commentator) had coined for Bush.

The Director of the FBI, who spied, leaked, and lied, thought it was perfectly reasonable to set the ball rolling for all those other treasonous intelligence and military leaders to show their contempt for the nation’s President (and thus by implication all those who voted for him. He went on TV to say how proud he was of his daughter and wife joining the pussy-hatted protest that occurred immediately upon Trump taking office.

Robert de Niro, in his 70s and not in terrific shape, though I suspect completely coked up, went on TV thinking he was really Jake LaMotta and said he was gonna punch Trump’s lights out. In the mix of this Walpurgis night some could just not get the pitch-and-madness of the mood quite right—poor Kathy Griffin pulled up a wax severed head of Trump dripping blood—as if she had saved the country by beheading the tyrant. But there was some tut-tutting that this was just a little too much—and she boo-hooed about the unfairness of it all: why had she just not called for his assassination like other celebrities and journalists?

One would think that if Putin really were hell-bent on destroying the West, this must have been the moment. There would have been no better time than the 2020 summer race riots for him to have walked and said, “OK, hands up,” while Milley and the generals and the boys from intel were in a study group parsing the more highfalutin texts of Judith Butler and Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw so they could better understand how to lead the nation and free those people who at the moment were busy burning down neighbourhoods. If you think I get hot under the collar about the imbecility of all this please check out Karen Kennedy. She is a lady of wrathful truth, the likes of which gives one a flicker of hope.

Given the lies and sheer scale of abuse of power, the blatant refusal to play by any rule book that would enable power not only to be transferred legitimately but accepted by those administering and executing the elected government’s power (this would be part of any 101 Introduction to Political Science course dealing with democracy)—is it really any wonder that there are so many people who simply do not trust a word that the media reports—about anything?

Question: how many times does someone have to lie to you before you stop listening?

But it was that one big fat mother of all lies that was the most reckless of the lot, one that not only succeeded in breaking any trust between those who want to make completely different futures, in which there is no longer any place for their opponents, but of making an enemy of Russia, when there was absolutely no need to. I won’t go into the mechanics of the lie, but there was a huge amount of coverage in the “off Broadway” media, which in those days was easy to discover, for anyone who wanted to wander into the narrower streets of information gathering and dissemination, which Google, DuckDuckGo and YouTube now want to eliminate in the way Amazon’s aim is to ensure that there are no towns with bricks-and-mortar stores competing with them.

People who found their news there found some really interesting and talented people. Far cleverer, in the main, than what was offered up as commentary on the television. Has anyone ever though Rachel Maddow, Don Lemon, the gaggle that do the View (Whoopi’s still there, the she’s so smart that she can see that the holocaust had nothing to with racism), Anderson Cooper have ever once said anything that was remotely insightful? Well, sadly, yes—which shows yet again why Xi and Vlad don’t want anything to do with the world these people are trying to make. In any case, you only have to look at this bunch and pretty much all the other self-righteous airheads on the main networks to understand why millions of people tune into Stephen Crowder, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, just to a name few of the more famous youtubers whose very existence has caused thousands of heart attacks and aneurisms among those who are addicted to mainstream media misinformation.

The old media modes had become outmoded, and losing money hand over fist. Their commercial model has been in trouble for quite a while, and they had to take a stand to distinguish what they did as truth from what citizen journalists, and podcasters did was… that was “conspiracy theory”, or misinformation. The mainstream media could provide the fact-checkers, that is people who came from the mainstream media, to establish what truth was really truth, which was what they and their mates said it was. Shortly after Biden took office the New York Times called for a “truth commission” and “reality Czar.” That was when all the search engines and YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. became the de facto “truth commission”—many like Sascha Baron Cohen (who has turned into the Manhattan version of his creation Ali G, though with more self-righteousness and half the brain power) think it is nowhere near enough.

How crazy could things get in the USA , and the rest of the West is just a heartbeat behind usually? So crazy that the ruling political class’ version of new normal is what Rachel Levine or Sam Brinton represent. While it is a sackable offense in some environments, possibly a crime of hate speech, to say this, to take them and their fantasies of self-creation seriously is something that just can’t be done by most people because it is completely silly—that’s not being transphobic, that’s merely reflexive “insaneo-phobia.”

But don’t take my word for it, Joe, please just have them visit India, China, Africa, and a bunch of Muslim countries to discuss any topic they have expertise in. Or, to make it even easier and cheaper (they will only need one-way tickets), send them to speak with the Taliban government in Afghanistan where they can deliver Anthony Blinken’s message of disappointment in their lack of diversity since kicking out the infidel—they could also bring presents, such as little rainbow flags, or signed copies of books like Cemetery Boys. He might also want to send the Squad along with them in case they still fail to realize just how diverse the US government really is. And while they are at it, they might just inform their various counterparts of their preferred pronouns—and whisper in their ear that they don’t like to be called women, but “birthing people,” and they like to choose their own “bathrooms.”

If Vlad or Xi ever really get serious about taking over the planet, their biggest obstacle will be to actually stop rolling around the ground laughing at the countless examples of what has befallen what was once the greatest military power on earth.

What has also befallen the elite of the Western world is a complete inability to distinguish fact from fantasy—and because they think everybody else, except the very stupid and ignorant, think like them. Most of them don’t even realize that they resort to lying when enabling the common self-deluding stories does not suffice. What they, or someone who thinks like them, says is true—that is the real meaning of “trust the science.” Which is why they will eventually have to change every search engine algorithm and de-platform anything or anyone they do not agree with; or if they are feeling that maybe the plebs should have some peanuts, just issue warnings saying that what they are watching or reading has been “deemed to be offensive as inappropriate for some viewers.”

Yes, that is truly what now greets anyone wanting to watch documentaries that deviate from the consensus as laid down by this unofficial “reality czar.” This is what came out of the Trump years- nothing Trump did came anywhere near the destruction of the very possibility of cultivating independence of mind or even providing an environment for “higher learning.” Trump had his agenda and goals, agree or not, but they did not require the complete and total control of which pronouns had to be used, or of what thoughts might be expressed on a range of topics.

Trump connected with a group of people who wanted what he promised—even if he did not deliver that much. Though, I have never seen a presidency fighting on so many fronts, including within the administration itself which was just another front for the civil war. But he did not entrench a panoply of formulae and observances, as commandeering as any divine scripture might mandate, that are as brainless as any ideas have ever been ‘thought up’ and yet the themselves are precisely the requisite “stuff” for brainwashing a society of infantilism, imbecility and indulgence.

No one was easier to dupe than the elite of the United States—well, OK, New Zealand and Australia punched way above their weight in believing whatever was required. And that is how it was possible to get people in the United States to buy the big lie of Trump being a Russian plant.

When the Russia-lie was being spread, it was not hard to uncover. Anyone who went hunting around on their computer quickly found that the lie had been exposed as soon as it had been hatched.

The hatching involves numerous players that go back to Hilary’s campaign, and the Steele dossier—but they are just the start of it. The scope and scale and mechanics, which became a kind of obsession of mine through 2016 to 2018 is too intricate to repeat here. Of course, because it is wide-ranging and was deliberate—even though it was mostly spread by idiot journalists and talk show hosts who couldn’t wait to tell it because this was going to bring Trump down and show the world what a scheming crook he is—it can easily be made to be a conspiracy theory. But what else can one call a bunch of people using their political and economic influence in back room deals, conversations, plans, tactics and deeds that they conceal from public viewing—other than a conspiracy?

My point is not that the Republicans don’t and didn’t conspire to have their way in this or other elections. It is that the mainstream media stopped investigating anything that would harm their “team,” which is why people who still believed in the New York Times being a bastion of impartial truth, or that CNN was a candid and critical source of absolutely reliable information believed the big lie they were being told, and did not bother to follow through to uncover information about (off the top of my head) GPS fusion, Glenn Simpson, Christopher Steele, the Penn Quarterly, money connections between the Hilary campaign and/or organizations connected with the disinformation trail from Khodorkovsky and Soros—who themselves are pals and cronies as with each other as well as Hilary.

Everyone knew about the infamous Trump tower meeting, but who is Natalia Veselnitskaya, and what exactly did she want to tell the Trump campaign about (hint the Magnitsky Act has a lot to do with it, and Don Jr., had little time or capacity to grasp its significance)? Or who is Alexandra Chalupa and what role did she play? These people are just a tiny tip of the story. It was such a dizzying tale in terms of who did exactly what that it was much easier to just say, “Nah, that’s a conspiracy theory.”

The fact that FBI and CIA agents had been proven to have conspired against the president did not lead any reporters from the big print media to ask, “But what is being claimed here and what is happening exactly?” Given that it was also the media moguls who hated Trump and, most pertinently the anti-globalist direction he was trying to revive (even Rupert did not like him), reporters in most mainstream media (Fox was not all pro-Trump, but it was the one mainstream outlet where pro-Trumpers could tune into hosts expressing their views and concerns) simply did their bidding and skewed the news so that everything globalist was very good, and everything MAGA/populist was very, very bad.

I spoke earlier about IR requiring an understanding of interests—that also involves, in any serious analysis, placing oneself in the picture and identifying one’s own interests, so that one can see the limit of one’s own place in the world and start to comprehend that of others. Any sense of that, which is to say any sense that might have elevated an understanding of the political circumstances, issues, and choices of the hour by asking where the media and its owners and reporters fitted into the larger good of the country’s future was never asked by mainstream reporters themselves.

Thus, ignorance spawned arrogance on a monstrous scale—in part because of the amplificatory nature of the technologies which we now deploy to express our better or worse hearts and minds and souls. The better, more creative part led to the emergence of “citizen journalists” who were not aligned to old power-structures, and who were beholden only to their own sense of what they saw and wished for. It was to the media what the Reformation was to Christendom, but unfortunately there was no equivalent to the reforms, and reinvigoration of Catholicism that was the Counter-Reformation.

Thus, they never even tried to expose the players and machinations involved in a conspiracy infinitely bigger than Watergate (yes, back then one could say that people who conspired to spy on their political opponents had conspired to spy on their political opponents), and possibly even more intricate than the WMDs being a lie, belief in which probably had more to do with CIA incompetence, and a failure to vet sources (because of the desire to get the answer they wanted). They were happy to garner favour with their bosses and repeat whatever someone who was in on it or would benefit from it (the entire Democrat machine—which also, happily, included most reporters) told them.

The lie, though, was spotted very early on by a number of former intelligence officials aware of the technology involved in early parts of the hatching—people like William Binney, and Ray McGovern, who really hated Trump, but who did a ton of stuff having to do with servers and downloads and deliberately misleading server “prints.” Others followed the trails of many of the players—Lee Stranahan was right up there—which is why he turns up again in the documentary about Ukraine in 2018; so were journalists from the Epoch Times. There were also some writers from the Hill—of course, there were far more than I can now recall.

The politics of those doing the exposing varied and the aforementioned leftist journalists also joined in: what they saw and what I saw went far beyond divisions concerning policy. It was horror at the recklessness of what the rulers of commerce, technology, ideas, were doing—it was nothing less than a threat to world peace. Putin had, as if from nowhere become the evilest man on the planet. So much so that even Fox presenters, who hated the Democrats and who night after night denounced and brought on guests exposing the lie, made sure that they established their anti-Putin bona fides.

All this created a completely unnecessary enemy of a man they knew next to nothing about; whose sphere of influence and, more importantly, whose geopolitical priorities were on the other side of the world. And it had done so at a time when people, who only a few years earlier were complaining about their political opponents, now spoke of the coming civil war, or the prospect of state secession. It had succeeded in completely breaking up the spirit of the nation, and with it contributed hugely to the cracks and fractures in the rest of the Western world, produced by the same polarised forces and elite mindset.

Need I repeat the obvious—this had nothing to do with Putin.

I have no way of knowing whether the intention, dated back to before 2014, was always to provoke Russia into a war, as an excuse to try and bring its economy down and bog Russia in another, albeit closer to home, dispute that might eventually bring down that “crook Putin.” I would not put it pass them. It has all the hallmarks of other great disastrous plans. In any case, the fact is that the claim was a lie that the majority of those who voted for the Democrats still think is the truth. And none of the journalists/ talk show people who spread it have ever apologized for misinformation—and of course YouTube, Twitter, Facebook don’t censor the people who continue to tell this Russia lie—a lie which rebooted the Cold War.

One of the people who could barely believe the scale of the “Russia stole the election” lie and who saw that this was an act of madness that would have a disastrous impact upon US/Russian relations was the former Soviet expert and historian (and, incidentally, a Democrat who utterly disliked Trump) Stephen Cohen. He went from being a regular commentator on Russian affairs at CNN to persona non-grata, after initially trying to explain why the expansion of NATO was a bad thing and why what the West was reporting about Ukraine in 2014 was also wrong.

To make matters worse for himself, Cohen had publicly expressed his doubts about some of the crimes that the West had blamed on Putin. He pointed out that even the family of Anna Politkovskay, (author of Putin’s Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy), who were personal friends of his, were certain it was Chechen gangsters not Putin behind her death. Cohen also drew attention to the fact that the other death the media always present as an open-and-shut case of a Putin assassination, Litvenenko, was most likely not one of his either—which was also what Litvenenko’s father said. But the climate was and remains such that any claim can be made about Putin, which involves oodles of cash and bodies, must be true.

Speaking of which, enter William Browder, self-proclaimed Number 1 enemy of Putin. As he tells the story, Putin can’t sleep at night scheming and plotting to get Browder. One wonders how Putin manages to run a country, in between the schemes and dreams of revenge and the poker games with his cronies. Browder is a best-selling author of two books, Red Notice, A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice, and (for those who found the previous title just a little too bland) Freezing Order : A True Story of Russian Money Laundering, State-Sponsored Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath. He is also a regular commentator on all the media outlets (Fox loves him), where he pontificates on all things Putin, including the war. According to him, he knows Putin’s mind inside out; he knows where the bodies are buried, and where the cash is stashed. Oh, and he is also a serial liar, hence he fits right into our story and the media empire of lies.

Browder, the grandson of Earl Browder, the general secretary of the US communist party, made a fortune by sweeping up the assets for a fraction of their real prices in the country his grandfather had seen as the future land of hope and plenty. When Bill visited that future in those Wild West days of the 1990s, he had his hopes fulfilled and got plenty. He set up an “investment” company and made so much money that he made himself an Irish citizen (cheaper taxes—America, the land of free enterprise, demands that if its overseas citizens are working, then any gap between the tax paid to their country of residence and the United States must go to Uncle Sam). He was also done for tax evasion in Russia.

In his meeting with Trump in 2018, it was Browder whom Putin was talking about when he spoke of 400 million dollars illegally being sent from Russia to the Clinton campaign. Politifact, in the typical ham-fisted manner that is meant to pass as genuine factchecking, does a meticulously stupid piece wanting to disprove the claim by focusing upon publicly declared monies that were donated to the Clintons. It does not address the really important part, that the 400 millions dollars were unpaid taxes on profits made by Browder’s company. Politifact also assumes Putin must be lying because Browder and the Clintons (who like Putin are also said have buried bodies (see the View’s response to Norm MacDonald on that one). But even saying that is a conspiracy theory, while everything you think you know about bad Vlad must be true) would be incapable of finding ways to launder the money—that is evil Vlad’s specialty.

Though Trump probably did not pick it up, Putin was referring to the money and the event that is at the centre not only of Browder’s Red Notice, but the impetus behind an Act that had already set Russia and the US on a path of serious conflict, the Magnitsky Act, a bi-partisan Bill that came into being under the Obama regime in 2012. It allowed for the freezing and confiscation of assets of those deemed to be violators of human rights—funnily enough, at the time of its implementation, all Russians, and all on the wrong side of Putin versus Khodorkovsky, Lebedev and the other ‘victims’ of Putin’s grand larceny and persecution. Though, what is really funny, is that this bunch of extremely wealthy Russians had managed to get an Irishman to lobby on their behalf. Moreover, however much wealth they had lost, had not made them paupers. The idea that maybe they were just tax frauds never seemed to bother anyone – anyway what right did Putin have to prosecute anyone for tax evasion? It was introduced by Benjamin Cardin and John McCain.

One might recall that back in 2008, when he was running for President, all sorts of dirt had been dug up by the Democrats to the effect McCain had done a lot of singing in the Vietnam cage. The hatred of Vietnam toward McCain blocking their efforts to recover and bring home missing and dead service men is still intense. Trump’s notorious quip about preferring heroes who hadn’t been captured was his nod to the Vets. Dan Bongino from Fox—very anti-Putin—also claimed that Russia-got-Trump-elected elected was a replay of a plan initially hatched back in 2007 in case McCain got in. That might be true or complete nonsense. I have read his book, but not checked his sources; but if true, I don’ think that they would have needed to unload that fabrication because McCain had already become very tight with what the Democrats were brewing up in terms of foreign policy (which was not that different from the neo-con derangement syndrome stuff). He was also sidling up to Browder and Khodorkovsky (who also pushed for the bill) by using his political influence to join the task of taking Putin down. Apart from his stint in the Maidan, Browder’s (and McCain’s) success in crafting and implementing The Act, which was initially limited to the USA and Russian nationals, has since been adopted in the EU, Canada and several other countries. Need I say it, Browder may be a liar, but he is a very powerful man.

One would be very naïve to underestimate the importance of the Magnitsky Act in the straining of international relations between the Western world and Russia, though as it turns out it was but a prelude to the present decision by the US government to freeze assets and impose sanctions on Russia because of its invasion. But I should just mention that we get into some pretty murky stuff when we start looking at US political legislation and Russia.

First, isn’t it weird that the US would introduce legislation instigated by an Irish citizen who has no government position? Browder, by the way is also a business associate of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and isn’t it also interesting that it was Joe Biden who introduced S.Res.322—”A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on the trial, sentencing and imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.”

Back in 2010, Hilary was also very vocally denouncing Russia for finding poor Mikhail and other oligarchs guilty of plundering the country—tax fraud was a topic near and dear to her heart, as was the cause of saving and recruiting billionaire clients for hers and Bill’s noble Foundation. Is it really far-fetched to believe that people as wealthy as Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, would be buying power and influence in the US government and leaving money trails so that politicians will help them bring down their enemy? Like Browder, Khodorkovsky is also talking to anyone who will listen and publishing about Putin’s tyranny and how this war will lead to regime collapse and overthrow—he is calling for demonstrations against the war, and using his considerable media machine influence to prepare Russians for him—or his man— as the next leader of Russia.

Whether orchestrated or not, the players who are intent on taking down Putin stand the most to benefit from Ukraine being in civil war; or, as now, outright war with Russia. Anyone who knows the least bit about the region and its history knows that the fate of Russia is inextricably tied to that of Ukraine (another thing Putin has stated repeatedly). And the US interference in the Maidan was above all a means of destabilizing the region in order to curb the power of Putin, and dismantle the reach of the regime—and, gain is it far-fetched to think that the stated objectives of Putin’s oligarch enemies, regime change, might not be what is the real end-game?

Maybe Khodorkovsky and co. have been trying to spell out the strategy for Joe in ways that he could say it without looking like he was saying it, yet making sure it was being said. If that sounds convoluted, it is because it is and Joe’s recent summersaults around the matter of “regime change” sure sounded convoluted. Besides, crafting legislation to redress the wrongs done to two non-American citizens, Joe also took such a personal interest in Ukraine that he threatened to withhold a billion dollars in military aid if the Ukrainian President did not change his prosecutor in the case against Burisma who also happened to employ his son. Joe’s smirking braggadocio, as he recounts the tale to fawning journalists is available for all to see on YouTube—and again the factchecking on this is as laughable as the idea that Hunter’s lost laptop is a Russian fabrication. Intrigue and murk? I think so.

But what any of us know, who are not actually in the game, is little. Still, there are questions aplenty that need to be asked, and our mainstream reporters are not asking them; and given the connection between the Magnitsky Act and the timing of the Maidan, questions about the Irish man behind an Act that has spread around the globe, and was the prelude to what is now a proxy weapons war and outright economic war against Russia, are definitely worth asking.

One person who ended up digging into that story through his firsthand acquaintance with Browder was the Russian filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov, a friend and sometime collaborator with Politkovskay. His CV also includes a string of critical documentaries on Putin and the FSB. Nekrasov was so inspired by Browder’s first book, he decided to do a feature film of it. But as work on the film progressed, he came to the realization that Browder’s fiction wagged the tail of any truth the dog might have had. Nekrasov had intended to tell the story of Browder’s heroism in the face of rogue officials robbing the titles of his business and murdering his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. In the making, it transformed into a documentary about Browder’s lies.

Nekrasov’s loss of faith in the Browder story started with his attempt to recreate the scene in the cell in which Magnitsky had ostensibly been murdered—and which he had received official access to—and discovered that the details, beginning with the size of the cell and number of police involved in the murder, could not possibly have been true. As he gathered more evidence, he reluctantly concluded that the official report about the cause of Magnitsky’s death (natural causes from a pre-existing health condition) was probably accurate. One would think any journalist familiar with how the Magnitsky Act had come into being and has been sold, and what it has meant to US (now Western) Russian relations, might be interested in following up on the fact that the martyr to the story was not, in fact, a martyr. Nor, as it turns out, is another claim about Magnitsky, a claim that is repeated wherever and to whomever Browder tells his story, was Sergei Magnitsky Moscow’s finest lawyer – he wasn’t a lawyer at all but an accountant – assisting Browder in tax fraud.

Watch the numerous videos of Browder’s talks and see how scripted they are. Also note the way in which the pauses and asides come with rehearsed regularity. They are not the gestures and manners of speech of a man whose mind is flooded by the associations that have come from persecution, whose feelings go into turmoil whenever these painful memories come up. They are the manners and gestures of a calculative man, a man who once he has plotted out the story sticks rigidly to the script, lest someone notice the loose threads that may unravel it. Note too, if you can watch this movie that Browder has attempted to banish from ever being publicly shown, like Khodorkovsky he can go from sweet charmer to deadly harmer in the blink of an eye. He is a bully as well as a liar; and as the film unfolds—it begins as a film about the making of the film—Nekrasov is on the receiving end of Browder’s early threatening glares and stares when he seeks clarification about the anomalies in Browder’s story—that also include the location and nature of this great corporation that he has built up.

The film then explosively addresses the centre-piece of Browder’s claim about the raiding and seizure of the deeds of registration and ownership when Nekrasov tracks down the ostensible policeman, supposedly living a life like Browder himself and his friend Mikhail, but who drives an old bomb and lives in a very modest flat, closer to what Browder’s “business dwellings” look like than the swanky places Browder lives in. (The film is worth watching just for the comedy of the scene where Nekrasov “discovers” the exact location of this billion-dollar plus operation, and the “staff” running it).

None with an open mind could watch this film, The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes (available only through a website of that name) and think that Browder’s story was anything other than fake—unless one is either on Browder’s payroll or a hack journalist. The film was denounced as a piece of “agit-prop” by the Washington Post.

For further information discrediting claims that Bill Browder was an innocent victim of crooked Putin, and that he is a great example of Western enterprise and moral courage apart from Lee Stranahan’s many podcasts on the topic, Lucy Komisar written major exposés of Browder’s porky pies.

If Browder is, as he and his publishers, love to tell us, Putin’s Number 1 enemy, it might be worth pausing on the claim: that the Number 1 enemy of Putin are Western lies; and in the broader picture that is also the case for Ukrainians now fleeing a country in which those who have told the lies to induce the war are nowhere to be seen. I might have been pretty scathing of Zelensky, but anyone who has been deceived this badly and who is living in the midst of such a horror—including those who were previously left to suffer in media silence—deserved our pity, and for us to at least try and speak some truth.

Conclusion

I may very well have lost readers on the way through these thickets thinking it is a mere ramble and haphazard rummage and roaming. My digressions about the craziness of our times are intended to highlight the relationships between the events and interests that either are essential to understand the war’s background, foreground, or what is at stake in it. I have merely scratched the surface. I know how little I know—there is so much more than main players know, that we don’t, as well as so much more that they don’t know- like how it will all play out in the immediate and distant future.

I have attempted to express why I cannot help but see this war as but one more “item” in a world divided between those seeking to fabricate a technocratic future and those who fear the mind-numbing conformity and spiritless nature that is required for its creation, as well as the vacuity of its destination. This would be truly an end of history, and an end of man—to use formulae from two ostensibly opposed enablers of this brave new world.

The forces at work both in the making and in the reaction are great; and as I have said throughout, most of those involved do not see exactly what they are doing or making. Hence too it is not unreasonable to fear the explosive consequences that are ever the inevitable accompaniment of great and rapid demographic upheaval through mass waves of immigration and the swift juxtaposition of different cultures.

I mentioned Karl Popper’s influence on George Soros; and to those who think they are being clever by not seeing how powerful this man is, all I can say is read up. Leaving aside Popper’s contribution to the philosophy of science and more generally how knowledge is best gathered and developed for the benefit of society, his great omission, which tends to be an oversight of most liberals, certainly of those in the “idea-ist” camp, is a failure to give sufficient importance to traditions. That is Soros’ failure, and the failure of globalists more generally. The failure is generally hidden, as I have also said, by a dialectical web of enlightened progressivism and Disney-styled romanticism, which wants Muslims, Confucian based tradition, tribal peoples, Hindus, Orthodox and all the world to live like Western, sexually-fluid undergraduates, celebrities and the mega rich. How this horrible stupidity plays, has already been seen in the disastrous attempts at regime change that the US and NATO have precipitated.

It is also being played out in Western Europe between an “indigenous” population, itself deeply divided between those who wish to trade the traditions of millennia for the globalist one depicted above, and a much more recent group of migrants whose appeals and spiritual commitments come from an entirely different set of circumstances and historical memory—these people themselves have their own divisions and pressures coming from the overspill and fallout of conflicts coming out of their former lands.

The problems back in their homelands are many, as are the causes, but the West’s collaboration in their making is something that intensifies the hatred of the West from people and organizations which hope that they may escape the intolerable present by leaping back into the past and hanging on ever more tightly. Only by living ever more faithfully to the stricture of their traditions can they escape the cursed world that they dwell within and they see as caused by the Western devils, whose own worlds are very hell.

This problem, like all serious political problems, is not a moral problem—morals certainly won’t solve it. It is Europe’s inevitable problem. The US, on the other hand, has made for itself another problem, the problem of racial strife. Race is a dangerous genie, when combined with seeing people primarily as racial types, and the world as a place in which there are only the privileged and the oppressed; and when the privileged themselves teach that they are not deserving of their privilege, then they are welcoming their demise. Again, none of my objections to critical race theory are to some kind of moral ideal standard—it is simply to see that the ideas behind it, and identity politics generally, are as stupid as the implications are deadly. Throw in open borders and the rest of the craziness I have touched upon—it is definitely “Good Night Irene.”

I repeat. I do not like what I see. Please convince me otherwise. But I will add one last thing. In any time or place, where serious matters are being discussed, if you are ever tempted, please pause before you reach for the kinds of platitudinous formulae that seem to be manufactured by Globalist Inc. for nincompoops—they who gave you such gems of thoughtlessness as “99 percent of scientists agree that…”; “trust the science;” “our X strives for excellence;” “we are committed to diversity;” “the discredited claim that;” “conspiracy theorists hold that”—and so on. Such formulae, stupid as they all are, do serve a purpose—to stop people asking awkward questions which might destabilize the consensuses required by globalizing technocrats and their minions to bring us all into their future, with them doing the leading. To such formulae we can add: “This war has happened because of the evil Putin;” “We must stop this evil madman;” and “That is just Russian propaganda.”


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen books.


Featured image: “Diogenes searching for an Honest Man,” by Jan Victors, ca. 17th century.