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Destabilising the north east Pacific: the US, China, North Korea and THAAD

The US deployment of the THAAD anti ballistic missile system to South Korea is destabilising because it is actually directed at China.

Alexander Mercouris

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As the crisis between the US and North Korea waxes and wanes, a commonly expressed view is that it is not a real crisis at all but an exercise in ‘bait and switch’, an attempt both to draw attention away and to justify the activation of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to South Korea, which has now been activated.

This is a superficially attractive view.  THAAD is strongly opposed by China, and there is also widespread opposition to it in South Korea.  Cranking up tensions against North Korea is an effective way both of drawing international attention away from it, and for justifying its deployment to the South Korean public.

THAAD however is almost certainly not the reason for the recent outbreak in the crisis between the US and North Korea.  Opposition from China and in South Korea was not going to prevent the deployment of THAAD, even if the incoming South Korean President is said to be unenthusiastic about it.  Given the dangerous rise in tensions and the very serious possibility of things going dangerously wrong, it is scarcely conceivable the US – even when led by an administration as inexperienced as that of Donald Trump – would have deliberately stirred up a crisis in the Korean Peninsula in order to get THAAD deployed, when it was going to be deployed anyway.

In fact the reason there is currently a crisis in the Korean Peninsula is not difficult to see.  It is the acceleration of the North Korean ballistic missile programme and Kim Jong-un’s almost certainly untrue boast that North Korea will be in possession of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the US before long.  It is the possibility that Washington might itself soon be within the reach of the nuclear missiles of a regime the US is profoundly ignorant of and whose sanity it regularly questions that has policy makers there filled with alarm.

I would add that though North Korea is probably decades away from a capability to reach the US, the pattern of its ballistic missile tests show that it is indeed becoming more ambitious in its ballistic missile programme.   The chart showing the success and failure rates of North Korean ballistic missile tests provided by my colleague Alex Christoforou shows this.

chartoftheday_9172_the_worrying_escalation_of_north_korea_s_missile_tests_n

The reason North Korean missile tests before 2013 regularly ended in failure was because North Korea had not yet perfected the technology of the short and medium ranged ballistic missiles it was testing.  The 100% success rate of its tests in 2013 and 2014 however shows that by those years this technology had been fully perfected and had become reliable.

The fact that there have been more unsuccessful tests since then is not a sign of regression.  Nor is it a sign of successful US interference in North Korea’s ballistic missile programme through the introduction of computer viruses and the like.

Rather it is a sign that North Korea is now developing and testing new more advanced and more powerful missiles, whose technology it has not yet perfected.

In other words the recent increase in the failure rate of North Korean ballistic missile tests is a cause of concern, not of complacency.  That unquestionably is how the US intelligence community interprets it.

Though THAAD is not the reason behind the recent increase in tensions in the Korean Peninsula, it is nonetheless inherently destabilising.

Though THAAD is pitched as a defence against attack from North Korea, there is no doubt the Chinese see it is a significant threat to themselves.  This is not because they worry that it can compromise their own strategic deterrent capability – which is obviously much greater than North Korea’s – or because its attendant radar systems have a range that can extend deep into China – a view which has recently been widely expressed.

The claim that THAAD is being used as a cover to deploy an advanced radar system close to China overlooks the fact that the US could deploy an advanced radar system to South Korea any time it wished without needing THAAD to provide it with cover.  Indeed it would be politically much easier to do so if the radar system did not come with THAAD.  The Chinese undoubtedly know this, and it is unlikely that it is the presence of the radar system they object to.

The likely reason the Chinese worry about THAAD is the same reason the Russians worry about the US’s deployment of anti ballistic missile interceptors in Romania and Poland: the installations for these interceptors could be quickly converted for use by offensive medium range missiles targeted against China and Russia.  Moreover because the systems are based so close to Chinese and Russian territory, the reaction times if the installations were converted in that way would be drastically shortened.

The background to all this is the US’s unilateral decision in the early 200os to scrap the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty, which has previously constrained the US from developing – or purporting to develop – anti ballistic missile systems.  Contrary to US claims that this was intended to provide the US and its allies with a line of defence against missile attacks from Iran and North Korea, the true reason for scrapping the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty was to put the US in a stronger position against China and Russia.   President Putin said as much during the plenary session at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on 17th June 2016

Another, equally important, or perhaps, the most important issue is the unilateral withdrawal [of the US] from the ABM Treaty. The ABM Treaty was once concluded between the Soviet Union and the United States for a good reason. Two regions were allowed to stay – Moscow and the site of US ICBM silos.

The treaty was designed to provide a strategic balance in the world. However, they unilaterally quit the treaty, saying in a friendly manner, “This is not aimed against you. You want to develop your offensive arms, and we assume it is not aimed against us.”

You know why they said so? It is simple: nobody expected Russia in the early 2000s, when it was struggling with its domestic problems, torn apart by internal conflicts, political and economic problems, tortured by terrorists, to restore its defence sector. Clearly, nobody expected us to be able to maintain our arsenals, let alone have new strategic weapons. They thought they would build up their missile defence forces unilaterally while our arsenals would be shrinking.

All of this was done under the pretext of combatting the Iranian nuclear threat. What has become of the Iranian nuclear threat now? There is none, but the project continues. This is the way it is, step by step, one after another, and so on.

That these deployments of US anti ballistic missile interceptors Romania and Poland and of THAAD in South Korea are intended as part of a strategy for the US to achieve military superiority over China and Russia is shown by the dismay in the US at the prospect of North Korea acquiring an intercontinental ballistic missile.  Obviously the US does not feel that its defence against such a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile has been secured by THAAD.  That is why it is currently pulling all the stops to prevent it appearing.

This in turn points to how dangerous deployments of systems like THAAD ultimately are.  The Chinese and the Russians will not only feel threatened by them, but will of course take steps to counter them. The nuclear arms race, which in the 1980s and 1990s seemed to be running down, will thereby accelerate, with the US in turn taking steps to counter the steps the Chinese and the Russians are taking.  Already the US is complaining angrily that the Russians are breaching the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty even though it was its decision to scrap the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty and to position anti ballistic missile systems in Romania and Poland that got the nuclear arms race between the US and Russia restarted.  The same is now bound to happen between China and the US in the Far East.  In the meantime reaction times have been radically shortened, reducing the time to correct things if they go wrong.

Worryingly all this is happening with barely any public discussion.  My impression is that even in Washington there are many policy makers who have not fully grasped what is happening.

In the short term what this means is that whereas during the Cold War the US was engaged in a single arms race against the USSR, today it risks becoming drawn into two parallel arms races at both the eastern and the western ends of the Eurasian continent against China and Russia, whose aggregate resources are greater than its own.  In the longer term the risk of a catastrophic nuclear war has increased.

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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