View of the Ukraine-Russia war from a different perspective to that of the western media

TOS-1a firing

TOS-1a firing

View of the world

Ukraine – what you’re not told

View of the Ukraine-Russia war from a different perspective to that of the western media

At the end of six months of outright war (after years of Ukrainian incursions into the eastern, Russian areas of the country) matters seem to be coming to a crunch point. The last real remaining bastions of Ukrainian, NATO sponsored and created, defences are crumbling and the mythical ‘counter-offensive’, from Kherson or elsewhere, is being conveniently forgotten.

That doesn’t mean that the war isn’t far from over. The ‘west’ wants this war to last as long as possible – in the vain hope it will bring Russia to its knees – even though their strategy has failed and sanctions on Russia have rebounded in a spectacular manner against their own economies. But even the most belligerent Russophobes are helpless as the level of weaponry being sent the Ukraine is falling (although the price seems to be going up) and it’s becoming increasingly uncertain if there are enough soldiers to be able to make full use of them, if and when they do arrive, whether trained on the systems or not.

At this time there are appearing a number of articles which address this new and changed situation but which are not readily available to a EU readership. It has been decided, therefore, to reproduce some of those which are considered to have some thoughtful things to say about the situation as it exists now.

They will appear, as well, as links on the Ukraine – what you’re not being told page but occasionally, in the future, as a separate post if it is considered useful.

This post contains three articles.

21 August 2022

How ‘Russophrenia’ from supposedly smart people in the West has slowly led us towards a major European war’

By Glenn Diesen

The author and holocaust survivor, Victor Klemperer, identified two distinct styles of language that defined Hitler’s propaganda against the Jews: either “scornful derision” of the inferior race or “panic-stricken fear” of their threat to civilisation.

Anti-Russian propaganda over the past centuries has similarly produced two contradictory positions – disdain for Russians as an uncivilised and backward people, and simultaneously an immeasurable threat looming over Europe. A state of affairs described by one writer as “Russophrenia: the idea that Russia is simultaneously about to fall apart, and also take over the world.”

Russia is hopelessly inept and weak, yet it is also capable of subverting the democracies of the world and restoring a global empire. Moscow is so impaired that the West does not need to acknowledge or accommodate its basic security interests, yet NATO’s 30 member states need ever-more weapons to defend against the dreaded Russians.

Exaggerating the weakness or the strength of an adversary (or both) is a key component of propaganda, which carries with it the obvious risk of miscalculations, as the real capabilities of the opponent are not accurately assessed. The war in Ukraine is a good case study of this phenomenon.

Exaggerating Russian strength and weakness

To encourage more NATO, more military spending and containment of Russia, it is commonly argued that we have underestimated the threat of the Russians. During the Cold War, it was falsely argued that the Soviets enjoyed a huge positive missile gap vis-à-vis the US, which incentivised further military spending in the US. After the Cold War, NATO expansion and raison d’etre have continued to rely on an exaggerated Russian threat.

To encourage a more forceful approach to Russia, it is now argued that we have overestimated Moscow’s strength. Case in point, an article by The Atlantic argues that “Ukraine Has Exposed Russia as a Not-So-Great Power”. It suggests that because the Russian army “has seized only 20 percent of Ukraine,” it is time to shed the illusion of Russia being a great power. This conclusion supports an even more hard-line position towards Russia as opposed to Kissinger’s argument that great powers must be accommodated for peace. In other words, more of the same policies that fuelled tensions and brought us to this horrific conflict.

The flawed narrative of Russian failure in Ukraine

There is no doubt that Russia failed to achieve a swift victory in Ukraine. Russia stormed up to the outskirts of Kiev in the early stages, seeking to impose a settlement. The Russian territorial advances seemed very impressive and coincided with the narrative of an all-mighty Russia. In reality, these positions relied on thin and vulnerable supply lines. With the failure of achieving a diplomatic settlement with Kiev, these positions had to be abandoned.

The UK and the US persuaded Kiev to abandon the peace talks in Istanbul, and the nature of the fighting subsequently changed fundamentally. The collective West promised it would provide all the weapons required if Ukraine would end negotiations and fight Russia. Washington stipulated its objective of permanently weakening Russia and knocking it down from the table of great powers. US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin explicitly announced that American aims included getting “Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things it has done in invading Ukraine”. This objective is consistent with the goals set by the renowned intelligence-linked think tank RAND Corporation in 2019, which is to overextend and take down Moscow: “The Ukrainian military already is bleeding Russia in the Donbass region (and vice versa). Providing more U.S. military equipment and advice could lead Russia to increase its direct involvement in the conflict and the price it pays for it”.

The Russian hope of a swift victory was thus replaced with a war of attrition, in which Moscow aimed to grind down and destroy the Ukrainian army – before imposing a settlement. The breaking point has now been reached, as evident by the current collapse of Ukraine’s most heavily fortified positions in Maryinka, Pisky and Avviivka. This will likely end in August or September, and then shift towards more rapid territorial conquest. Is it strategically wise to deny this reality to sell the narrative of a weak Russia?

The narrative of an inept, exhausted and demoralised Russian military that has almost run out of ammunition has persisted since March. Yet, there is an even wider problem with the narrative of Russia not being able to defeat its weak neighbour. In reality, NATO has also indirectly gone to war against Russia. US Brigadier General Joseph E. Hilbert argued that “the worst thing the Russians did was give us eight years to prepare.” Furthermore, the collective West has supplied increasingly advanced weapons since Russia invaded in February 2022.

Is Russia a great power?

American political scientist John Mearsheimer defines a great power by its “reasonable prospect of defending itself against the leading state in the system by its own efforts.” It appears that Russia has passed that test as the collective West has now thrown everything but the kitchen sink in terms of supplying military hardware, military intelligence, and economic sanctions.

The collective West has depleted a large part of its weapons storage in a futile effort to stop Russian advances on the battlefield. This is despite the fact that Russia is only fighting with its peacetime army of 200,000 troops against a Ukrainian army several times this size. The 3:1 rule of war stipulates that in order that for the attacker to win the battle, his forces should be at least three times the force of the defender. In Ukraine, this ratio is reversed with 1:3 in Ukraine’s favour. Russia’s 2 million reserve soldiers and much of its more advanced weapons are kept as backup in case NATO directly enters the war.

The collective West has launched unprecedented economic sanctions with the explicit expectation that it would immediately collapse the Russian economy, financial system and currency. This never happened and the Russian ruble is the strongest performing currency this year. Instead, the sanctions have backfired so spectacularly, to the extent that the West has set fire to its own house in the hope it would spread to Moscow.

The attempt to mobilise the international community against Russia has also failed, as 85% of the world population live in countries that have refused to participate in sanctions – despite pressure and threats from the US. Even the pope pointed to NATO expansionism as a source of the war.

The dangers of wishful thinking

Denying that Russia is a great power may feel good, but as stated by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu more than 2,500 years ago: “There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent”.

Wishful thinking about Russian weakness incentivises the collective West to escalate, while diplomacy and a peace agreement become increasingly difficult and unfavourable.

Before February 2014, Russia’s main policy towards Ukraine was to preserve it as a neutral state, a bridge between East and West. After the Western-supported regime change and support for an “anti-terrorist operation” against Donbass, Russia demanded autonomy for Donbass. As the US sabotaged the Minsk peace agreement, which was aimed at delivering autonomy, for seven years, the Kremlin switched to pushing for Donbass independence. Once the US began sending advanced weapons to Ukraine with the explicit aim of permanently weakening Russia, Moscow expanded its territorial claims to counter this threat.

The anti-Russia sanctions have been exhausted, and have backfired terribly. There is now a recognition that the measures have been a spectacular failure, as Western economies crumble while Moscow is shifting its economic connectivity to the East. Russia’s economic dependence on the West has been a source of great influence, but this leverage is dwindling and is not coming back.

The desire to depict Russia as feeble is required as NATO insists it must negotiate from a position of strength. But isn’t this the source of the problems? For 30 years, NATO negotiated against a weaker Moscow, and the result was that the US-led bloc could act unilaterally and ignore Russian security interests. By abandoning pan-European security agreements, pan-European security collapsed.

We have been moving slowly towards a major European war for 30 years and there are no good solutions anymore. But an end to wishful thinking must be the beginning.

Glenn Diesen is Professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway and an editor at the Russia in Global Affairs journal. Follow him on Twitter @glenndiesen.

Originally published here.

21 August 2022

NATO members pushing to brand Russia a ‘terrorist state’ tells us that the US and its allies lack self-awareness

The latest wheeze from some of the military bloc’s adherents is pure hypocrisy

by Robert Bridge

Efforts are underway in the US Senate to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Before going down that road, lawmakers may wish to consider some inconvenient facts.

If Russia’s military operation in Ukraine is doing anything – aside from eradicating the resurgence of fascism on the European continent – it is revealing the shocking lack of self-awareness in Western capitals. Perennial American Russophobes from opposite sides of the political spectrum, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Lindsey Graham, are now agitating members of Congress to include Russia in Washington’s list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism,’ which presently includes North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Syria.

Meanwhile, the Baltic State of Lithuania signed off on its own legislation in May declaring Russia a ‘terrorist state.’ Yet Vilnius didn’t stop there, accusing Russia of carrying out ‘genocide’ on its neighbor’s territory.

The resolution states that Russia is committing “genocide against the Ukrainian people,” while saying that the Russian military, like some kind of modern-day Huns, “deliberately and systematically target civilian targets…”

Consider how US-led coalition forces ‘liberated’ the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islafmic State militants, who scattered their forces throughout the civilian population thereby turning civilians into ‘human shields’ – a technique now being employed by Ukraine. The US-led Coalition’s relentless four-month ‘precision’ bombardment against IS killed and injured thousands of civilians, while reducing homes, businesses and infrastructure to rubble. Surveying the damage on the ground, Amnesty International concluded that the US-led Coalition “launched strikes likely to cause excessive harm to civilians and failed to distinguish between military targets and civilians.

The tragic irony of the situation, from Russia’s perspective, is that while Moscow is attempting to spare infrastructure and human lives, it is branded the ‘terrorist state,’ whereas Ukraine is granted hero status as it employs those same tactics that put civilian life at grave risk.

Naturally, tragedies will occur and Russia, like any country that finds itself at war, will eventually be accused of killing innocent civilians. Yet these casualties are vastly exacerbated by the fighting techniques of the Ukrainian military, which, it should be emphasized, has been receiving its training from NATO forces since 2014. Time and again, when Russian troops enter a city, they find the enemy fortified behind civilian infrastructure, like hospitals, kindergartens and schools. This automatically turns the facility into a military target for Russian forces, which Ukraine then uses as ‘proof’ that Moscow is deliberately targeting civilians. It’s the oldest trick in the book, used by terrorists, but thanks to the media’s political biases and the Western leaders’ geopolitical interests, that label is now being slapped on the other side in the fight.

This month, Amnesty published a report that supports the claim that the Ukrainians are not fighting the fair fight.

“Ukrainian forces have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals…,” the human rights group said, much to Kiev’s ire.

“We have documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law,” she added.

Kiev was enraged, with the director of Amnesty Ukraine resigning in protest, and President Vladimir Zelensky calling the organization an “accomplice of Russia” and “a terrorist themselves” – another indication of the label being used as little more than a political smear.

Now that we’ve compared and contrasted Russian and American fighting techniques, let’s take a look at Russia’s most vocal European accusers – the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia. Do they have the necessary street cred to declare Russia – or any country for that matter – a state sponsor of terrorism?

As it turns out, Vilnius existed as a vital link in the CIA’s top secret ‘extraordinary rendition’ program – which saw suspected Islamist militants from conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq captured and held in so-called ‘black sites’ outside the US.

In windowless and soundproofed rooms on the desolate outskirts of the Lithuanian capital, “one could do whatever one wanted,said Arvydas Anusauskas, who led a Lithuanian parliamentary investigation into the site in 2010. “What exactly was going on there, we did not determine.” Too bad they didn’t ask Abu Zubaydah, a former guest of the dungeon hideout.

In January, the Lithuanian government was ordered to pay Zubaydah, who, like so many other detainees was eventually proven innocent of all charges, €100,000 ($113,319) in compensation for the brutal treatment he suffered at the site. In other words, Vilnius had secretly violated European laws banning torture, which includes beatings, waterboarding, sensory and sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, endless blaring noise and harsh light. Now does Lithuania really sound like the kind of place that should be inducting other countries into the terrorism hall of fame? Probably not.

And then there’s Lithuania’s neighbor Latvia, which just can’t shake its Adolf Hitler obsession after nearly a century. Each year, on March 16th, thousands of Latvians parade through the capital Riga, resplendent in their Nazi regalia to pay homage to the homegrown SS divisions that fought in World War II alongside the Nazis – you know, the same characters who were responsible for the untimely death of millions of Jews, Christians and others. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that would qualify Nazi Germany as being a full-blown terrorist state by modern standards, which suggests that Latvia has some explaining to do. But instead, it would rather tear down old Soviet statues while its parliament declares Russia a terrorist state for fighting the same menace. Sorry, it just doesn’t wash.

Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of ‘Midnight in the American Empire,’ How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream.

Originally published here.

23 August 2022

A nuclear showdown? One of the greatest ‘realist’ fears about the Russia-Ukraine conflict is actually groundless, and here’s why.

The US will not intervene directly, because it’s not an existential crisis for Washington – it stands to lose little from Kiev’s inevitable defeat

by Scott Ritter

Fears that the Ukraine conflict is now bogged down into some sort of stalemate which risks dangerous escalation from the parties involved in order to achieve victory are misplaced. There is only one victor in the Ukraine conflict, and that is Russia. Nothing can change this reality.

Renowned American intellectual John Mearsheimer has written an important article about the conflict, entitled: ‘Playing with Fire in Ukraine: The Underappreciated Risks of Catastrophic Escalation’. The article paints a dark picture about both the nature of the war in Ukraine (prolonged stalemate) and probable outcome (decisive escalation by the parties involved to stave off defeat).

Mearsheimer’s underpinning premises, however, are fundamentally flawed. Russia possesses the strategic initiative – militarily, politically, and economically – when it comes to the war in Ukraine and the larger proxy engagement with NATO. Moreover, neither the US nor NATO is in a position to escalate, decisively or otherwise, to thwart a Russian victory, and Russia has no need for any similar escalation on its part.

In short, the Ukraine conflict is over, and Russia has won. All that remains is a long and bloody mopping up.

The key to understanding how Mearsheimer got it so wrong is to dissect his understanding of the ambitions of both the US and Russia when it comes to the issue. According to Mearsheimer, “Since the war began, both Moscow and Washington have raised their ambitions significantly, and both are now deeply committed to winning the war and achieving formidable political aims.”

This passage is especially difficult to parse out. First and foremost, it is extremely difficult to articulate a sound baseline when it comes to assessing US “ambitions” vis-à-vis Ukraine and Russia. President Joe Biden’s administration inherited a policy which had been conceived in the George W. Bush-era and partially implemented under the team of Barack Obama (where Biden played a critical role). This was a very aggressive policy geared toward undermining Russia with the goal of weakening the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to such an extent that eventually he would be replaced by a figure more amenable to adhering to a US-dictated policy line.

But one cannot pretend that there were not four years of Trump administration policy which threw the anti-Putin – and, by extension, anti-Russia – narrative promulgated by the Obama administration on its head. While Trump was never able to gain traction for his ‘why can’t we be friends’ approach to US-Russian diplomacy, he was able to seriously undermine two major policy pillars which propped the Obama-era policy up, namely NATO unity and Ukrainian solidarity.

The Biden administration was never able to resuscitate the Obama-era policy direction regarding Russia, inclusive of its anti-Putin goals and objectives. Trump’s undermining of NATO’s unity and purpose, when combined with the humiliating pull-out from Afghanistan, put the bloc on the back foot when it came to standing up to the challenge of a Russian state determined to be more assertive about what it viewed as its legitimate national security interests, inclusive of a new European security framework respectful of the notion of a Russian ‘sphere of influence’.

Instead, the world was treated to the spectacle of Joe Biden insulting his Russian counterpart with cartoonish ‘he’s a killer’ comments, all the while making promises regarding diplomatic initiatives (pressuring Ukraine to accept Minsk II, starting ‘meaningful’ arms control talks) that his administration proved unable and/or unwilling to follow through on.

When confronted with the reality of a Russian military build-up around Ukraine, the best the Biden administration could do was make empty military threats and even emptier promises about “meaningful and unprecedented” economic sanctions should Russia intervene militarily. 

The fact is, while US government officials may make bold statements about the need to inflict harm, via proxy, on the Russian military through the provision of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Ukraine, it is the US which has had defeat inflicted on it in terms of the ongoing losses of its Ukrainian proxy military and the destruction of the equipment provided in support. The US, like its NATO allies, has proven to be very good at making bold pronouncements about goals and intent, but very bad at putting them into practice.

This is the state of American ‘ambitions’ vis-à-vis Ukraine today – all rhetoric, no meaningful action. Any fear of a US and/or NATO military intervention in Ukraine must be weighed against the reality that hot air does not generate cold steel; US politicians might be adept at filling the pages of a compliant mainstream media with impressive-sounding words, but neither the US military nor its NATO allies are able to generate the kind of meaningful military capability needed to effectively challenge Russia on the ground in Ukraine.

This reality severely limits the scope and scale of any possible US ambitions regarding Ukraine. At the end of the day, Washington has only one path forward – to continue to waste billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money sending military equipment to Ukraine, which has no chance of changing the outcome on the battlefield, to convince a domestic American audience that their government is ‘doing the right thing’ in a losing effort.

There is no ‘military option’ in Ukraine for either the US or NATO because, simply put, there is no military capable of meaningfully executing such an option.

This conclusion is critical to understanding Russia’s ‘ambitions’. Unlike the US, Russia has articulated clear and concise objectives regarding its decision to dispatch military forces into Ukraine. These can be described as follows: Permanent Ukrainian neutrality (i.e., no NATO membership), the de-Nazification of Ukraine (the permanent eradication of the odious nationalistic ideology of Stepan Bandera), and the de-militarization of the state – the destruction and elimination of all traces of NATO involvement in the security affairs of Ukraine.

These three objectives only reflect the immediate goals of the Special Military Operation in Ukraine. The ultimate objective – a restructured European security framework that has all NATO infrastructure withdrawn to the 1997 boundaries of that alliance – remains as a non-negotiable requirement that will have to be addressed after Russia secures its final military and political victory in Ukraine.

In short, Russia is winning on the ground in Ukraine, and there is nothing either the US or NATO can do to alter this outcome. And once Russia secures this victory, it will be in a far stronger position to insist that its concerns about a viable European security framework be respected and implemented.

Mearsheimer believes that the situation on the ground in Ukraine provides both the US and Russia with “powerful incentives to find ways to prevail and, more important, to avoid losing.”

At the end of the day, the Ukraine conflict is not an existential one for either the US or NATO; a loss in Ukraine will be another setback – Afghanistan on steroids. But a Ukrainian defeat does not, in and of itself, threaten NATO with collapse or spell the end of the American Republic.

Simply put, Mearsheimer’s fear that a loss in Ukraine “means that the United States might join the fighting either if it is desperate to win or to prevent Ukraine from losing” is unfounded.

So, too, is his contention that “Russia might use nuclear weapons if it is desperate to win or faces imminent defeat, which would be likely if US forces were drawn into the fighting.” Russia neither “faces defeat” nor has anything to worry about, existentially, from a US military intervention which, from all practical points of view, could not materialize even if the US wanted to be so bold.

Mearsheimer concludes his article by noting that “This perilous situation creates a powerful incentive to find a diplomatic solution to the war.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as the US would be loath to seek a “diplomatic solution” to the conflicts waged against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Russia would be similarly disinclined to engage in any diplomacy which denied it the full implementation of its core objectives.

Back in March, in response to a tweet from Joe Biden which declared “Let there be no doubt that this war has already been a strategic failure for Russia,” I responded by tweeting, “This war will go down in history as a strategic Russian victory. Russia will have halted NATO expansion, destroyed a dangerous den of Nazi ideology in Ukraine, redefined European security by undermining NATO, and demonstrated Russian military prowess, an important deterrent.”

Those words were accurate then, and they remain accurate today.

[Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘Disarmament in the Time of Perestroika: Arms Control and the End of the Soviet Union.’ He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector.]

Originally published here.

View of the world

Ukraine – what you’re not told

The six month ‘anniversary’ of the Special Military Operation in the Ukraine

Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks

Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks

View of the world

Ukraine – what you’re not told

The six month ‘anniversary’ of the Special Military Operation in the Ukraine

I normally just post the likes of the link below only on my Ukraine – what you’re not being told page. If they were published in a post that would mean an avalanche of post notifications which would soon, possibly, become annoying.

However, I am following a different approach with this link.

The British, especially, seem to be obsessed with anniversaries, particularly those which are related to military conflicts and wars. The 24th August 2022 is the six-month ‘anniversary’ of Russia’s Special Military Operation in the Ukraine so it seems to be an appropriate time to publish, more widely, a discussion which basically reviews the last six months, from its military, political and economic aspects. The discussion provides an intelligent analysis of the events of the last six months (together with reference to the events and decisions leading up to the Russian incursion into Ukraine) and posits thoughts on what will be the consequences of the war and the changes it has caused in the international situation.

The participants, from the start, all agree that Russia is winning (indeed, has already won) the war – but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the fighting. The ‘west’ wants the war to go on and on and the Ukrainians – for some bewildering reason – are still prepared to be the cannon fodder for western capitalist interests. That means the discussion will come over as ‘pro-Russian’ – although I believe the three involved are looking at the actual situation in an objective manner and are discussing what is happening and not what they would like to happen, as is the theme of ‘western’ propaganda.

This is not a brief discussion – as it’s just under two hours in length – but if people want to make comments and accept decisions and actions taken on their behalf by their governments then it is incumbent upon them to make those decisions based on as much information as possible. If proof was needed of the mendacious politicians we have accepted to be in ‘leadership’ and the shameful, supine media that exists in most of Europe then the events since February 24th have provided it in bucket loads.

If you still think (or have ever thought) that; Ukraine is an incorruptible bastion of democracy and old style liberalism; that Zelensky is a Churchillian demi-god; that more than a third of Ukrainian land hasn’t been privatised and now under the control of just three giant US companies; that workers rights in the Ukraine aren’t being systematically abolished; that Nazis aren’t (or weren’t before their destruction by the Russian army) a major player in Ukrainian life; that Ukraine won’t turn more towards state terrorism in growing desperation at its failures on the battlefield; that the Buffoon is anything more than just that; that the words ‘Truss’ and ‘leader’ on the same page let alone the same sentence isn’t an abuse of the English language; that ‘Sleepy Joe’ isn’t vying for the position of the most pathetic and ineffectual of US Presidents in a field with stiff competition; that the EU is not the organisation which, through its muddled and confused actions in relation to Russia, hasn’t created the bulk of the crisis that is about to hit the populations of the continent; that NATO isn’t a warmongering organisation, led by psychopathic cretins, hell-bent on bringing the world to nuclear annihilation; that the majority of the other world leaders aren’t more akin to spoilt kindergarten children than leaders with ideas, a programme and a strategy to achieve it – then don’t click on the link below. It will just be a waste of your time.

Glenn Diesen interviews Scott Ritter and Alexander Mercouris.

To understand the process the participants went through to come to these conclusions see previous links on Ukraine – what you’re not being told.

There’s been enough death (apart from the Nazis) and destruction on both sides and it’s now time for the ‘western’ powers to use their influence and instead of sending over more and more weapons – which don’t aid the Ukrainians but just means more of them will die – to push for talks that will lead to the end of hostilities. In such a situation they also have to moderate their demands – there is no way that Russia will give up what it has already seized as trust between Russia and the ‘west’ doesn’t really exist any more. Many stated very soon after hostilities took a step up in February that the ‘west’ looked ready to take this war ‘until the last Ukrainian’. That situation doesn’t look that far away now.

View of the world

Ukraine – what you’re not told

Arms industry sees Ukraine conflict as an opportunity, not a crisis

Ukranian tanks - January 2022

Ukranian tanks – January 2022

View of the world

Ukraine – what you’re not told

Arms industry sees Ukraine conflict as an opportunity, not a crisis

[The article below first appeared on the Truthout website on 2nd March 2022.]

Arms industry sees Ukraine conflict as an opportunity, not a crisis

by Jonathan Ng

In February, a photograph of Russian President Vladimir Putin sitting hunched over a 13-foot table with French President Emmanuel Macron circulated the globe. News about their sprawling table and sumptuous seven-course dinner was reminiscent of a Lewis Carroll story. But their meeting was deadly serious. Macron arrived to discuss the escalating crisis in Ukraine and threat of war. Ultimately, their talk foundered over expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), yielding little more than the bizarre photograph.

Yet the meeting was surreal for another reason. Over the past year, Macron, the leading European Union (EU) peace negotiator, has led an ambitious arms sales campaign, exploiting tensions to strengthen French commerce. The trade press even reported that he hoped to sell Rafale fighter jets to Ukraine, breaking into the “former bastion of Russian industry.”

Macron is not alone. NATO contractors openly embrace the crisis in Ukraine as sound business. In January, Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes cited “tensions in Europe” as an opportunity, saying, “I fully expect we’re going to see some benefit.” Likewise, CEO Jim Taiclet of Lockheed Martin highlighted the benefits of “great power competition” in Europe to shareholders.

On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, pounding cities with ordnance and dispatching troops across the border. The sonic boom of fighter jets filled the air, as civilians flooded the highways in Kyiv, attempting to flee the capital. And the stock value of arms makers soared.

The spiraling conflict over Ukraine dramatizes the power of militarism and the influence of defense contractors. A ruthless drive for markets — intertwined with imperialism — has propelled NATO expansion, while inflaming wars from Eastern Europe to Yemen.

Selling NATO

The current conflict with Russia began in the wake of the Cold War. Declining military spending throttled the arms industry in the United States and other NATO countries. In 1993, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Perry convened a solemn meeting with executives. Insiders called it the “Last Supper.” In an atmosphere heavy with misapprehension, Perry informed his guests that impending blows to the U.S. military budget called for industry consolidation. A frantic wave of mergers and takeovers followed, as Lockheed, Northrop, Boeing and Raytheon acquired new muscle and smaller firms expired amid postwar scarcity.

While domestic demand shrunk, defense contractors rushed to secure new foreign markets. In particular, they set their sights on the former Soviet bloc, regarding Eastern Europe as a new frontier for accumulation. “Lockheed began looking at Poland right after the wall came down,” veteran salesman Dick Pawlowski recalled. “There were contractors flooding through all those countries.” Arms makers became the most aggressive lobbyists for NATO expansion. The security umbrella was not simply a formidable alliance but also a tantalizing market.

However, lobbyists faced a major obstacle. In 1990, Secretary of State James Baker had promised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that if he allowed a reunited Germany to join NATO, the organization would move “not one inch eastward.” Yet lobbyists remained hopeful. The Soviet Union had since disintegrated, Cold War triumphalism prevailed, and vested interests now pushed for expansion. “Arms Makers See Bonanza In Selling NATO Expansion,” The New York Times reported in 1997. The newspaper later noted that, “Expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — first to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic and then possibly to more than a dozen other countries — would offer arms makers a new and hugely lucrative market.”

New alliance members meant new clients. And NATO would literally require them to buy Western military equipment.

Lobbyists poured into Washington, D.C. fêting legislators in royal style. Vice President Bruce Jackson of Lockheed became the president of the advocacy organization U.S. Committee to Expand NATO. Jackson recounted the extravagant meals that he hosted at the mansion of the Republican luminary Julie Finley, which boasted “an endless wine cellar.”

“Educating the Senate about NATO was our chief mission,” he informed journalist Andrew Cockburn. “We’d have four or five senators over every night, and we’d drink Julie’s wine.”

Lobby pressure was relentless. “The most interested corporations are the defense corporations, because they have a direct interest in the issue,” Romanian Ambassador Mircea Geoană observed. Bell Helicopter, Lockheed Martin, and other firms even funded Romania’s lobbying machine during its bid for NATO membership.

Ultimately, policy makers reneged on their promise to Gorbachev, admitting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO in 1999. During the ceremony, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — who directly cooperated with the Jackson campaign — welcomed them with a hearty “Hallelujah.” Ominously, the intellectual architect of the Cold War, George Kennan, predicted disaster. “Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion,” Kennan cautioned.

Few listened. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Chas Freeman described the mentality of policy makers: “The Russians are down, let’s give them another kick.” Relishing victory, Jackson was equally truculent: “‘Fuck Russia’ is a proud and long tradition in US foreign policy.” Later, he became chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which paved the way for the 2003 invasion, the biggest industry handout in recent history.

Within two decades, 14 Central and Eastern European countries joined NATO. The organization originally existed to contain the Soviet Union, and Russian officials monitored its advance with alarm. In retrospect, postwar expansion benefited arms makers both by increasing their market and stimulating conflict with Russia.

Targeting Ukraine

Tensions reached a new phase in 2014 when the United States backed the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine. Yanukovych had opposed NATO membership, and Russian officials feared his ouster would bring the country under its strategic umbrella. Rather than assuage their concerns, the Obama administration maneuvered to slip Ukraine into its sphere of influence. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland coordinated regime change with brash confidence. Nuland openly distributed cookies to protesters, and later, capped a diplomatic exchange with “fuck the EU.” At the height of the uprising, Sen. John McCain also joined demonstrators. Flanked by leaders of the fascist Svoboda Party, McCain advocated regime change, declaring that “America is with you.”

By then, newly minted NATO members had bought nearly $17 billion in American weapons. Military installations, including six NATO command posts, ballooned across Eastern Europe. Fearing further expansion, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and intervened in the Donbas region, fueling a ferocious and interminable war.

NATO spokespeople argued that the crisis justified expansion. In reality, NATO expansion was a key inciter of the crisis. And the conflagration was a gift to the arms industry. In five years, major weapons exports from the United States increased 23 percent, while French exports alone registered a 72-percent leap, reaching their highest levels since the Cold War. Meanwhile, European military spending hit record heights.

As tensions escalated, Supreme Commander Philip Breedlove of NATO wildly inflated threats, calling Russia “a long-term existential threat to the United States.” Breedlove even falsified information about Russian troop movements over the first two years of the conflict, while brainstorming tactics with colleagues to “leverage, cajole, convince or coerce the U.S. to react.” A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution concluded that he aimed to “goad Europeans into jacking up defense spending.”

And he succeeded. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute registered a significant leap in European military spending — even though Russian spending in 2016 equaled only one quarter of the European NATO budget. That year, Breedlove resigned from his post before joining the Center for a New American Security, a hawkish think tank awash in industry funds.

The arms race continues. After European negotiations gridlocked, Russia recognized two separatist republics in the Donbas region before invading Ukraine this February. Justifying the bloody operation, Putin wrongly accused Ukrainian authorities of genocide. Yet his focus was geopolitical. “It is a fact that over the past 30 years we have been patiently trying to come to an agreement with the leading NATO countries,” he said. “In response to our proposals, we invariably faced either cynical deception and lies or attempts at pressure and blackmail, while the North Atlantic alliance continued to expand despite our protests and concerns. Its military machine is moving and, as I said, is approaching our very border.”

In retrospect, three decades of industry lobbying has proved deadly effective. NATO engulfed most of Eastern Europe and provoked a war in Ukraine — yet another opportunity for accumulation. Alliance members have activated Article 4, mobilizing troops, contemplating retaliation and moving further toward the brink of Armageddon.

Yet even as military budgets rise, European arms makers — like their American counterparts — have required foreign markets to overcome fiscal restraints and production costs. They need clients to finance their own military buildup: foreign wars to fund domestic defense.

Yemen Burning

Arms makers found the perfect sales opportunity in Yemen. In 2011, a popular revolution toppled Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had monopolized power for two decades. His crony, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, became president the next year after easily winning the election: He was the only candidate. Thwarted by elite intrigue, another uprising ejected Mansour Hadi in 2015.

That year, Prince Salman became king of Saudi Arabia, but power concentrated into the hands of his son, Mohammed bin Salman, who feared that the uprising threatened to snatch Yemen from Saudi Arabia’s sphere of influence.

Months later, a Saudi-led coalition invaded, leaving a massive trail of carnage. “There was no plan,” a U.S. intelligence official emphasized. “They just bombed anything and everything that looked like it might be a target.”

The war immediately attracted NATO contractors, which backed the aggressors. They exploit the conflict to sustain industrial capacity, fund weapons development and achieve economies of scale. In essence, the Saudi-led coalition subsidizes the NATO military buildup, while the West inflames the war in Yemen.

Western statesmen pursue sales with perverse enthusiasm. In May 2017, Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia for his first trip abroad as president, in order to flesh out the details of a $110 billion arms bundle. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, arrived beforehand to discuss the package. When Saudi officials complained about the price of a radar system, Kushner immediately called the CEO of Lockheed Martin to ask for a discount. The following year, Mohammed bin Salman visited company headquarters during a whirlwind tour of the United States. Defense contractors, Hollywood moguls and even Oprah Winfrey welcomed the young prince.

Yet the Americans were not alone. The Saudi-led coalition is also the largest arms market for France and other NATO members. And as the French Ministry of the Armed Forces explains, exports are “necessary for the preservation and development of the French defense technological and industrial base.” In other words, NATO members such as France export war in order to retain their capacity to wage it.

President Macron denies that the coalition — an imposing alliance that includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Sudan and Senegal — uses French weapons. But the statistics are suggestive. Between 2015 and 2019, France awarded €14 billion in arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia and €20 billion in licenses to the United Arab Emirates. CEO Stéphane Mayer of Nexter Systems praised the performance of Leclerc tanks in Yemen, boasting that they “have highly impressed the military leaders of the region.” In short, while Macron denies that the coalition wields French hardware in Yemen, local industrialists cite their use as a selling point. Indeed, Amnesty International reports that his administration has systematically lied about its export policy. Privately, officials have compiled a “very precise list of French materiél deployed in the context of the conflict, including ammunition.”

Recently, Macron became one of the first heads of state to meet Mohammed bin Salman following the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Like Trump’s trip, Macron’s diplomatic junket was a sales mission. Eventually, Macron clinched a deal with the United Arab Emirates for 80 Rafale fighters. The CEO of Dassault Aviation called the contract “the most important ever obtained by French military aerospace,” guaranteeing six years of work for a pillar of its industrial base.

French policy is typical of NATO involvement in Yemen. While denouncing the war, every Western producer has outfitted those carrying it out. Spanish authorities massage official documents to conceal the export of lethal hardware. Great Britain has repeatedly violated its own arms embargo. And the United States has not respected export freezes with any consistency.

Even NATO countries in Eastern Europe exploit the war. While these alliance members absorb Western arms, they dump some of their old Soviet hardware into the Middle East. Between 2012 and July 2016 Eastern Europe awarded at least €1.2 billion in military equipment to the region.

Ironically, a leading Eastern European arms exporter is Ukraine. While the West rushes to arm Kyiv, its ruling class has sold weapons on the black market. A parliamentary inquiry concluded that between 1992 and 1998 alone, Ukraine lost a staggering $32 billion in military assets, as oligarchs pillaged their own army. Over the past three decades, they have outfitted Iraq, the Taliban and extremist groups across the Middle East. Even former President Leonid Kuchma, who has led peace talks in the Donbas region, illegally sold weapons while in office. More recently, French authorities investigated Dmytro Peregudov, the former director of the state defense conglomerate, for pocketing $24 million in sales commissions. Peregudov resided in a château with rolling wine fields, while managing the extensive properties that he acquired after his years in public service.

The Warlords

Kuchma and Peregudov are hardly exceptional. Corruption is endemic in an industry that relies on the proverbial revolving door. The revolving door is not simply a metaphor but an institution, converting private profit into public policy. Its perpetual motion signifies the social reproduction of an elite that resides at the commanding heights of a global military-industrial complex. Leading power brokers ranging from the Mitterrands and Chiracs in France, to the Thatchers and Blairs in Britain, and the Gonzálezes and Bourbons in Spain have personally profited from the arms trade.

In the United States, the industry employs around 700 lobbyists. Nearly three-fourths previously worked for the federal government — the highest percentage for any industry. The lobby spent $108 million in 2020 alone, and its ranks continue to swell. Over the past 30 years, about 530 congressional staffers on military-related committees left office for defense contractors. Industry veterans dominate the Biden administration, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin from Raytheon.

The revolving door reinforces the class composition of the state, while undermining its moral legitimacy. As an elite rotates office, members insulate policymaking from democratic input, taint the government with corruption and mistake corporate profit with national interest. By 2005, 80 percent of army generals with three stars or more retired to arms makers despite existing regulations. (The National Defense Authorization Act prohibits top officers from lobbying the government for two years after leaving office or leveraging personal contacts to secure contracts. But compliance is notoriously poor.) More recently, the U.S. Navy initiated investigations against dozens of officers for corrupt ties to the defense contractor Leonard Francis, who clinched contracts with massive bribes, lavish meals and sex parties.

Steeped in this corrosive culture, NATO intellectuals now openly talk about the prospect of “infinite war.” Gen. Mike Holmes insists that it is “not losing. It’s staying in the game and getting a new plan and keeping pursuing your objectives.” Yet those immersed in its brutal reality surely disagree. The United Nations reports that at least 14,000 people have died in the Russo-Ukrainian War since 2014, and over 377,000 have perished in Yemen.

In truth, the doctrine of infinite war is not so much a strategy as it is a confession — acknowledging the violent metabolism of a system that requires conflict. As a self-selecting elite propounds NATO expansion, military buildup and imperialism, we must embrace what the warlords most fear: the threat of peace.

View of the world

Ukraine – what you’re not told