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CONFIRMED: US admits ‘unipolar moment’ is over

Review admits ‘Great Power competition’ has returned

Alexander Mercouris

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The US Nuclear Posture Review is a seminal document, not just because of the nuclear weapons build up it speaks of – worrying though that is – but because it represents a formal admission by the US that the so-called ‘unipolar moment’ – the period after the end of the Cold War when the US enjoyed unchallenged global dominance – is over.

So far from being the world’s unchallenged and unchallengeable ‘hyperpower’ and world hegemon, the US admits that it is now once again just one of three Great Powers – the US, Russia and China – albeit that it still considers itself to be the strongest of the three.

The Review admits this unambiguously.  One of its chapters is straightforwardly entitled “The Return of Great Power competition”.

This chapter, the single most important in the whole document, has this to say

Since 2010 we have seen the return of Great Power competition.

To varying degrees, Russia and China have made clear they seek to substantially revise the post-Cold War international order and norms of behavior.

Russia has demonstrated its willingness to use force to alter the map of Europe and impose its will on its neighbors, backed by implicit and explicit nuclear first-use threats. Russia is in violation of its international legal and political commitments that directly affect the security of others, including the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the 2002 Open Skies Treaty, and the 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives. Its occupation of Crimea and direct support for Russia-led forces in Eastern Ukraine violate its commitment to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine that they made in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.

China meanwhile has rejected the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration Tribunal that found China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea to be without merit and some of its related activities illegal under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and customary international law.

Subsequently, China has continued to undertake assertive military initiatives to create “facts on the ground” in support of its territorial claims over features in the East and South China Seas.

Russia and China are pursuing asymmetric ways and means to counter U.S. conventional capabilities, thereby increasing the risk of miscalculation and the potential for military confrontation with the United States, its allies, and partners.

Both countries are developing counter-space military capabilities to deny the United States the ability to conduct spacebased intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3); and positioning, navigation, and timing. Both seek to develop offensive cyberspace capabilities to deter, disrupt, or defeat U.S. forces dependent on computer networks.

Both are fielding an array of anti-access area denial (A2/AD) capabilities and underground facilities to counter U.S. precision conventional strike capabilities and to raise the cost for the United States to reinforce its European and Asian allies and partners.

While nuclear weapons play a deterrent role in both Russian and Chinese strategy, Russia may also rely on threats of limited nuclear first use, or actual first use, to coerce us, our allies, and partners into terminating a conflict on terms favorable to Russia. Moscow apparently believes that the United States is unwilling to respond to Russian employment of tactical nuclear weapons with strategic nuclear weapons.

Russian and Chinese officials strongly object to this characterisation of their countries’ foreign and defence policies, which they say is misleading and wrong.

However that is to miss the point.  The point is that for the first time since the end of the Cold War the US sees itself as challenged by other Great Powers – specifically Russia and China – which are militarily and technologically and – in China’s case – economically comparable to itself.

It is in order to respond to this challenge that the US is embarking on the massive upgrade in its nuclear forces which the Review discusses.

This proposed upgrade is indeed massive, though the Review goes out of its way to deny (unconvincingly) its likely huge financial cost.

Briefly, in order to match the upgrades in Russian and Chinese strategic nuclear forces which are currently underway, the US proposes to develop a new generation of nuclear missile submarines to replace the Ohio class submarine, a new ground launched intercontinental ballistic missile to replace the ageing Minuteman III missile, and a new strategic bomber to strengthen its ageing and increasingly ineffective strategic bomber force.

My fundamental objection to this approach is not that the US does not face mounting challenges from Russia and China – it clearly does – but that the US is either blind to the fact that it has provoked those challenges by its own actions, or that it refuses to admit to itself the fact.

This becomes very clear from even a cursory reading of the Review.

Nowhere in the Review is there the slightest acknowledgement that the US has done things which might make the Russians and the Chinese feel threatened by the US, and that this might cause the Russians and the Chinese to upgrade their defences in response to the threats they might perceive from the US.

Thus the Review has nothing to say about how the Russians might feel about the eastward expansion of NATO – undertaken in breach of promises made to the them by the US and NATO at the end of the Cold War – the US’s bombing of Yugoslavia, the US engineered ‘colour revolutions’ in the former Soviet space, US support for the Maidan coup in Ukraine, and the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and deployment of anti-ballistic missile interceptors in eastern Europe.

The Review is equally oblivious to the way the Chinese might feel about US meddling in the South China Sea, US deployment of anti-ballistic missile interceptors in the Korean Peninsula, US support for Japanese rearmament, and US threats of war against North Korea.

On the subject of the US ‘regime change’ wars against Iraq, Libya and Syria, and the US’s increasingly flagrant disregard of the authority of the UN Security Council of which both Russia and China are permanent members, the Review has nothing to say at all.

Not surprisingly, since the US cannot admit – apparently even to itself – how its actions might be perceived in Russia and China, its response to the increasing challenges which it admits it is facing is to double down.

Thus the programme to embark upon a vast upgrade of US nuclear forces which the Review outlines.

This is staggeringly short-sighted.  The international position of the US has markedly deteriorated in recent years- as the Review says – precisely because of the responses from Russia and China to the US’s own actions.

Yet whilst the Review shows that the US is aware of the marked deterioration of its international position, instead of drawing back and reconsidering its actions, it is choosing to take steps which will provoke Russia and China into stronger responses, which over time will not only weaken the US’s international position even further, but which will over time greatly increase the threat of war.

I say this because the other great omission from the Review is any recognition of the single most important fact about the international situation which has become increasingly obvious over the last ten years: this is that the two Great Powers from whom the US perceives it is facing challenges – Russia and China – are increasingly cooperating and working together as they come under ever greater pressure from the US.

A key reason why the US was able to see off the Soviet challenge during the Cold War was because the Sino-Soviet split of the 1960s markedly weakened the USSR’s international position, and markedly strengthened that of the US.

As the Review shows, the US not only seems oblivious of this fact: it is doing everything in its power by threatening Russia and China simultaneously to reverse the position of advantage it achieved through the Sino-Soviet split of the 1960s by bringing Russia and China closer together against the US.

This is beyond foolish given that today – as was never the case during the Cold War – the aggregate economic, technological and especially industrial and raw material resources of Russia and China are greater than those of the US, calling into question the US’s long term ability to sustain an arms race which it insists on conducting simultaneously against both of them.

Already there is a marked build up of Russian conventional forces in eastern Europe, probably outmatching the size and power of the conventional forces the US currently has in Europe, whilst the Chinese aircraft carrier programme threatens US military dominance of the Pacific for the first time since the end of the Second World War.

At present the US still has the military forces to take on both the Russian army in Europe and the Chinese navy in the Pacific simultaneously.

However before long that will become impossible, at which point the US will find itself not only disastrously over-extended but facing a military commitments’ crisis.

In a rational world that ought to drive the US towards seeking some sort of rapprochement with either Russia or China or preferably with both of them.

Both countries are still overwhelmingly focused on their internal economic development, and for that reason they would probably be willing to come to some sort of ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ arrangement with the US if it were offered to them.

The brief detente era between the US and the USSR of the early 1970s offers a possible precedent, though given subsequent US behaviour the US now faces a massive trust deficit which it will struggle to overcome.

However that remains the rational approach for the US to be taking, and in my opinion if it took it, and committed itself to it seriously, it would probably despite all the trust issues achieve success given the overriding interest of both Russia and China in a peaceful and stable world situation at this time.  Certainly the view expressed in the Review that Russia and China are ‘revisionist’ powers is for the time being at least wrong.

The Review however shows that the US intends instead to take the opposite course.

Its plan appears to be step up the nuclear arms race with Russia in the hope that this will force Moscow to come to terms with the US on US terms, thereby leaving the US free to turn its full weight onto China, which the Nuclear Posture Review shows the US realises is its true longterm rival.

Thus comments in the Review like this

The United States and Russia have in the past maintained strategic dialogues to manage nuclear competition and nuclear risks. Given Russian actions, including its occupation of Crimea, this constructive engagement has declined substantially. The United States looks forward to a new day when Russia engages with the United States, its allies, and partners transparently and constructively, without aggressive actions and coercive nuclear threat

and this

Russia is not the Soviet Union and the Cold War is long over. However, despite our best efforts to sustain a positive relationship, Russia now perceives the United States and NATO as its principal opponent and impediment to realizing its destabilizing geopolitical goals in Eurasia

In other words the US wants a return to the situation of the 1990s, when Russia was essentially a US satellite, and its military build up against Russia is intended to force Russia to agree to a return to this situation, which of course benefited the US.

The fact that this approach is more likely to provoke Russia into upgrading its own nuclear deterrence capabilities still further – something which Russia has repeatedly shown that it is both willing and able to do – and into forging even closer relations with China in its own defence, is something that the authors of the Review are clearly aware of, but have no response to.

Instead they choose to double down on an offensive nuclear weapons build up policy which targets Russia even though one senses that they know that it has scant prospect of success.

The US Nuclear Posture Review is in fact a profoundly pessimistic document, more so than any other foreign policy or defence document the US government has published which I have read since the end of the Cold War.

Not only does it effectively admit what is now undeniable – that with the return of Great Power competition the ‘unipolar moment’ has passed – but it barely conceals its dismay that the US is once again locked into something which following the end of the Cold War it assumed it would never have to face again: a nuclear arms race.

Much of the Review in fact consists of a long lament about the extent to which the US’s nuclear forces have fallen behind those of its main rivals – Russia and China – since the end of the Cold War.

Obviously there is much special pleading here, and no doubt the Review is in part both a response to the perennial urging from the US’s military defence industries (its famous ‘military-industrial complex’) for more military spending and to the careerist ambitions of its authors.

However even a cynic should admit that there is also a grain of truth to it.

It is for example true that the basic systems the US uses for its offensive nuclear forces – the Ohio nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the Trident II sea launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the Minuteman III land based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and the B-2 bomber, are all products of the late Cold War.

By contrast Russia since the end of the Cold War has deployed two types of road mobile ICBMs (the Topol and the Yars), is about to deploy a new large heavy ICBM (the Sarmat), is currently building modern Borei class nuclear ballistic missile submarines, and has deployed two modern SLBMs, the Bulava and the Sineva.

Russia has also relaunched construction of the large supersonic T-160 strategic bomber, has an ongoing programme to develop its own subsonic strategic stealth bomber, the PAK-DA, and has apparently an ongoing programme to develop a high speed underwater drone capable of carrying out nuclear strikes on the US coastline.

Though Chinese strategic weapons programmes are much smaller than Russia’s, China has brought into service since 2008, albeit apparently in small numbers, the D-31 road mobile ICBM, is currently developing the D-41 road mobile ICBM, has begun to deploy multiple re-entry warheads on its D-5 land based ICBM, and has recently begun deploying its new Type 094 nuclear ballistic missile submarines with its JL-2 SLBMs, which have multiple re-entry warheads.

The one area where since the end of the Cold War the US has deployed a modern strategic weapon system ahead of Russia and China is in the field of anti-ballistic missile systems, where it has deployed such systems on the Korean Peninsula and in eastern Europe.

These US developments in anti-ballistic missile technology however now look to be matched by ongoing Russian development of the A-235 and S-500 missiles.

In the meantime the Russians and the Chinese (the Russians especially) have now at least matched and possibly even surpassed the US in cruise missile technology, an area where before 2010 the US enjoyed unchallenged dominance.

There has been some discussion recently of the supposed advantages the US has achieved through the development of ‘super-fuzes’ for its nuclear warheads, which supposedly means that it has either achieved or is close to achieving a ‘first strike capability’.

The Saker has to my already conclusively refuted these claims.  To his well-informed comments I would merely add that if the US is deploying ‘super-fuzes’ for its nuclear warheads then it is a virtual certainty that the Russians are doing so also.  Whatever advantage the US may have achieved through this technology will therefore prove to be ephemeral.

Much of the discussion about ‘super-fuzes’ is in any event based in my opinion on mistaken comparisons of the US and Russian early warning systems.

It is true that the Russian early warning system is currently based on land based radars, whereas the US system is based on satellites, and that this means that the Russian system provides shorter warning times against enemy missile attacks (supposedly 15 minutes) than does the US system (supposedly 30 minutes).

However this fails to recognise that this is only so because the Russians chose to build an early warning system based on land based radars rather than satellites.

They did that not only because a land based system is much cheaper but because it also has much greater system redundancy and is less vulnerable to attack.

By contrast the Review speaks with great alarm of the development by Russia and China of anti-satellite weapons, which potentially could threaten the viability of its early warning system, ignoring of course the fact that it was the US which foolishly initiated the development of such weapons in the first place.

The Russians are anyway now preparing to supplement their land based early warning system with a secondary satellite based system, which will reduce their system’s warning times to roughly the same level as that of the US.

As to the actual production of nuclear weapons – as opposed to the systems to deliver them – the Review laments at fantastic length the fact that the US has lost much of its capability to produce such weapons, and that one quarter of its nuclear weapons infrastructure dates from the Manhattan Project era of the 1940s.

If there is therefore a grain of truth to the Review’s complaint that whilst the US has been neglecting its strategic nuclear forces the Russians and the Chinese have been pressing ahead with upgrading theirs, it however omits what is undoubtedly the reason for this.

Not only are Russian and Chinese nuclear forces developments responses to the overweening US geostrategic ambitions of the ‘unipolar’ era; the US neglected development of its strategic nuclear forces during that era precisely because it assumed that following its ‘victory’ over the USSR in the Cold War it enjoyed such a huge margin of superiority over all conceivable rivals that it would not need to upgrade its offensive nuclear forces further.

Moreover the US seems to have assumed that its development of ‘super-fuzes’ and of new anti-ballistic missile system deployments would ‘lock in’ its superiority forever.

No less a person than Vladimir Putin himself said in my presence that the reason the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty and launched its anti-ballistic missile programmes at the start of the 2000s was because it was convinced that Russia in its then prostate state would never be able to respond to them.

The events of the last decade have shattered these illusions.

Not only have the Russians and the Chinese responded to US actions by upgrading their strategic nuclear forces to an extent that the US never imagined possible, but they have both shown that they are both able and willing to counter whatever technological challenges – such as anti-ballistic missile systems or ‘super-fuzes’ – that the US throws at them.

In the meantime multiple media reports speak of the Russians and the Chinese staying fully abreast of US hypersonic warhead programmes, and cooperating with each other in anti-satellite weapons development.

Not only have US geopolitical ambitions provoked Russia and China into building up their strategic nuclear forces to an extent and speed which the US never imagined.

They have also provoked a nuclear challenge to the US from a third party, the US has never confronted before.

To the obvious dismay of the authors of the Review, the US now finds itself faced with a North Korea armed with both ICBMs and nuclear weapons.

I have discussed the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme many times, so I will repeat here only briefly the point which even the authors of the Review concede, which is that the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme is a response to the threat the North Korean regime perceives from the US

What the Review fails to acknowledge is that once again it was US actions – specifically the US’s  repeated reneging of agreements it had reached with North Korea extending back to the early 1990s  – which provoked North Korea into pursuing this programme.

Once more the US finds itself reaping the consequences of its ‘unipolar’ illusions.

It assumed that following the end of the Cold War the North Korean regime was ripe for collapse, and that it lacked the resources to follow through with the ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme it admitted to possessing.

As a result in the 1990s and early 2000s the US felt itself under no real pressure to follow through with the agreements it had reached with North Korea, and because these were unpopular with certain influential people in the US, the agreements were allowed to fall by the wayside.

The result is that the North Korean missile and nuclear weapons capability is now in place, with the Review all but admitting that the US has no good options to respond to it.

The Review in fact devotes a disproportionate amount of space to North Korea even though its capability to strike at the US is for the moment very limited, and cannot be compared to those of Russia and China.

However that limited capability which North Korea does possess has nonetheless massively complicated US nuclear strategic nuclear forces planning, introducing a third nuclear rival to the US about whom the US knows very little, and whose actions are therefore unpredictable.

Beyond the growing and multiplying nuclear challenges the US is facing, the US planners must now also face a rapidly deteriorating conventional military environment.

Not only does the US for the first time in its post Second World War history face the prospect of simultaneous conventional military challenges in Europe and the Pacific from the Russian army and the Chinese navy.

It now also finds itself for the first time since the end of the Second World War facing a potentially significant conventional military challenge in the Middle East from Iran.

This presumably is why the Review also devotes a disproportionate amount of space to Iran despite Iran having no nuclear weapons.

Indeed it is easy to see how the US’s overall military position is rapidly becoming worse than it was during the Cold War.

The Cold War was essentially a dual between two nuclear superpowers – the US and the USSR – which was fought out in a limited geographical area – north west Europe and the north Atlantic.

By contrast the challenges the US is now facing are becoming truly global: against Russia in Europe, against China in the Pacific, and potentially against North Korea and Iran in the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East.

Moreover, despite their differences there is a growing trend for three of these Powers – Russia, China and Iran – to work together with each other, with Russia and China de facto allies against the US, and Iran gradually becoming so.

It is only a question of time before the US finds that it does not have the conventional military forces to confront all these challenges simultaneously.

This almost certainly is the true reason why the US is intent on rebuilding its Cold War arsenal of low yield nuclear warheads.

During the Cold War this arsenal of low yield nuclear warheads was intended by the US to offset perceived Soviet conventional military superiority in north west Europe. It is precisely in order to counter possible conventional military challenges – especially from Russia in Europe – that this arsenal is now being revived.

That this is what really lies behind the US decision to bring back low yield nuclear warheads, and not the (entirely fictitious) Russian doctrine of limited nuclear war which is conjured up in the Review, is all but confirmed by these words in the Review, which openly speak of the US being prepared to use its nuclear forces to respond to conventional military challenges

The United States would only consider the employment of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies, and partners. Extreme circumstances could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks.

Significant non-nuclear strategic attacks include, but are not limited to, attacks on the U.S., allied, or partner civilian population or infrastructure, and attacks on U.S. or allied nuclear forces, their command and control, or warning and attack assessment capabilities.

The United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.

Given the potential of significant non-nuclear strategic attacks, the United States reserves the right to make any adjustment in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of non-nuclear strategic attack technologies and U.S. capabilities to counter that threat.

(bold italics added)

Needless to say, this approach magnifies many times over the risk that nuclear weapons might one day be used by US battlefield commanders in order to stave off a possible conventional military defeat.

It is a disastrous lowering of the nuclear threshold, which given the present period of tension can only cause deep concern.

The US Nuclear Forces Review is in fact a deeply ominous document.

It shows that the US realises that its period of unquestioned global dominance has ended, but instead of responding to this by moderating its policies and reaching out to its potential adversaries, it is escalating its policies against them further.

That can only increase the ‘threat environment’ the return of which the Review spends so much time lamenting.

Moreover the authors of the Review, who come across as intelligent and well-informed people, obviously know it.  However considerations of ideology, pride and self-interest prevent them from drawing the obvious conclusions from it.

I experienced the same disturbing denial in a television debate I had with a US defence specialist on Press TV during which I discussed the Nuclear Posture Review and this very same issue.

Whilst my US interlocutor was clearly an intelligent person who was fully aware of the validity of all the points both I and the moderator were making – he never disputed any of them at any point in the programme – his response was simply to go on repeating like a broken record the same claims about the US needing to be “strong” and needing to show “leadership” with which he started the programme.

Given this mindset, which it is clear is not merely shared by all politicians in Washington but by the whole of the US’s military leadership, it is very easy to see how as the US’s international position continues to deteriorate things could go catastrophically wrong.

There is a famous – possibly apocryphal – story of the advice Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt supposedly gave to Hitler’s headquarters on 1st July 1944, as it became clear that the German counter-attack against the Allied beachhead in Normandy had failed.  It runs like this

Keitel: What shall we do? What shall we do?
Rundstedt: Make peace, you fools!  What else can you do?

It is not entirely wrong to say that in geostrategic terms the US now finds itself in roughly the same position as the one Germany was in when Rundstedt supposedly gave his advice.

However on the evidence of the Review, it is as resistant to the implications of this – and to the actions which must follow from it  – as were the German leaders when what were essentially the same facts were pointed out to them.

Obviously the US unlike Germany does not find itself in an actual war.  However given the appallingly high stakes, its resistance to reality can only fill one with a sense of deep foreboding and dismay.

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Ukraine’s Cult of Stepan Bandera: Not a Detail, but a Cornerstone

Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media.

Dmitry Babich

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Authored by Dmitry Babich via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


During the recent years of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, there has been one issue where the Western mainstream press simply cannot fully ignore or reject the Russian arguments. This issue concerns the life and actions of Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) and his followers from what is known as the “Banderite” faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN, a far-right organization that took terrorist actions against Polish and Soviet officials from the 1920s to the 1950s and which is now legally protected from any criticism in Ukraine).

THE “WRONG” AND “RIGHT” VICTIMS

Because Bandera was born on January 1, 1909, celebrations of his birthday have become disgusting New Year’s rituals in Ukraine in recent years, with thousands participating in Nazi-style torch-lit marches that include shouted protests against “Putin’s Russia” and rants such as, “Jews out!” which are heard by everyone except the police. This New Year was no exception, since the current Ukrainian government under President Petro Poroshenko (who publicly identified himself as a Banderite after taking office in 2014) officially added Bandera’s 110th birthday to the list of Ukraine’s most important anniversaries. This time, there were several quiet voices of condemnation heard in Poland, Israel, and even the US. Why? In truth, torches, masks, political murders, and mob attacks against “pro-Russian” public figures are nothing new in post-Maidan Ukraine. And these things usually pose no problem for the mainstream press of the US and its allies. So, why is Bandera an exception?

The answer is ethnic, as awful as that may sound. Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media, with its double and triple standards. In the 1930s Bandera killed Polish officials, in the 1940s his people killed civilian Jews and Polish peasants, and these are groups whose plight even the New York Times cannot ignore today. If Bandera’s infamous slogan “Death to enemies!” had been directed only against “disloyal” Russians and anti-Banderite Ukrainians (the groups currently persecuted by Poroshenko), Bandera would have been no different from his modern admirers in the Ukrainian government. But Bandera’s followers from the OUN decimated the Jewish population of Lvov and Kiev in 1941, trying to curry favor with the advancing Germans. And between 1943 and 1944, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), taking its orders from Bandera’s OUN officers, ethnically cleansed his native Western Ukraine of ethnic Poles, killing from 70,000-100,000 of them (the infamous “slaughter of Volhynia”). The aim was to create an “ethnically pure” Ukraine before the arrival of the Red Army in late 1944. Documents published by the Polish historian Grzegorz Motyka indicate that Bandera and the OUN hoped that the Red Army would soon be replaced by Anglo-American domination. “His strategy was to clean up the house before the arrival of the real master,” Motyka concludes in his book.

THE LADY OF THE RADA VS. ISRAEL’S PRESIDENT

The American domination took another 70 years, but it did come. And now the Banderites’ (and Poroshenko’s) only historic disagreement with the West is over the infamous “ethnic cleansing,” to which Bandera’s “glorious heroes” subjected Ukraine in 1941-1944. When Israeli President Reuven Rivlin dared to raise the issue during his visit to Ukraine in 2016, he got a scolding from the vice speaker of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada), Irina Gerashchenko: “The Israeli president allowed himself some incorrect and undiplomatic words about the OUN’s tragic history,” Gerashchenko said at the time. “It was highly inappropriate, especially now, when Ukraine is fighting for its independence.” Gerashchenko forgot to mention the fact that Babi Yar, the burial site of some 30,000 Jews killed by German and Ukrainian Nazis in Kiev in 1941, was vandalized nine times between 2015 and 2016, according to data provided by the Ukrainian Jewish Committee.

WHY THE WEST WANTS TO FORGET, BUT CANNOT

In the immediate aftermath of the Maidan coup in 2014, the mainstream press was ready to forget even that, since an honest account of Bandera’s activities between 1939 and 1959 could rekindle memories of the undesirable parallels to the “resistance to Russian occupation” by Poroshenko’s army in the Donbass in 2014 and 2015. Between the summer of 2014 and the winter of 2015, about 10,000 people died there, victims of the aircraft and tanks sent by Poroshenko (just months earlier, the US and the EU had been unable to abide the use of truncheons by the police of the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych). At the time, the NYT called Bandera the “Ukrainian nationalists’ hero.” Obviously, the NYT’s authors were taking their cues from the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum, with her Banderite headline, “Nationalism is exactly what Ukraine Needs” in the once-glorious New Republic.

But here the mainstream press tried to kill off a memory that will never die — the memory of how Hitler’s East European Nazi allies participated in the destruction of the region’s Jewish population in the early 1940s. This was something not even Anne Applebaum could make people forget.

In his articles in the American press, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Eduard Dolinsky, tried to explain to the American public that Bandera’s cult is not an isolated, unpleasant phenomenon: Stepan Bandera never acted alone, he represented a crudely nationalist ideology. Unfortunately, this ideology reigns triumphant in modern Ukraine behind the “liberal” façade displayed for the West. For example, Dolinsky notes that Poroshenko’s hypocritical speeches memorializing Jewish victims can be heard next to, say, a memorial to OUN activist Ivan Rogach, whose newspaper called Jews “the greatest enemy of the people” in 1941. “The Ukrainian leadership set itself on the course of rehabilitating anti-Semitism and introducing censorship of history,” concludes the official statement of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human-rights group, famous for its work to bring Nazi criminals to justice.

THE RUSSIAN QUESTION BEHIND THE JEWISH ONE

If the West cannot afford to be completely silent about Bandera’s participation in the Holocaust, it is willingly ignoring another huge injustice that is inseparable from Bandera’s cult in modern Ukraine — the erasure of the Russian and anti-Banderite component of Ukraine’s historic memory. In 2017, Kiev’s Vatutin Avenue was renamed Bandera Avenue, resulting in an outcry in Russia and complete silence in the West. This avenue, a major thoroughfare in the Ukrainian capital, had originally been named in honor of General Nikolai Vatutin, who liberated Kiev from Nazi occupation in 1943 and died in a shootout with the OUN’s guerillas in 1944. At the time, there was no question about where America’s sympathies lay: the fight against Hitler was not yet over, and Vatutin, born in 1901 to a peasant family living immediately adjacent to the future Russian-Ukrainian border, was a useful ally for the United States. Will Bandera and his modern followers be a good replacement? Only someone with Poroshenko’s plans for Ukraine or with Anne Applebaum’s views on history could agree.

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Entering a Major Regional Re-set – The Syria Outcome Will Haunt Those Who Started This War

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set.

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Authored by Alastair Crooke via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The Middle East is metamorphosing. New fault-lines are emerging, yet Trump’s foreign policy ‘hawks’ still try to stage ‘old movies’ in a new ‘theatre’.

The ‘old movie’ is for the US to ‘stand up’ Sunni, Arab states, and lead them towards confronting ‘bad actor’ Iran. ‘Team Bolton’ is reverting back to the old 1996 Clean Break script – as if nothing has changed. State Department officials have been briefing that Secretary Pompeo’s address in Cairo on Thursday was “ slated to tell his audience (although he may not name the former president), that Obama misled the people of the Middle East about the true source of terrorism, including what contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. Pompeo will insist that Iran, a country Obama tried to engage, is the real terrorist culprit. The speech’s drafts also have Pompeo suggesting that Iran could learn from the Saudis about human rights, and the rule of law.”

Well, at least that speech should raise a chuckle around the region. In practice however, the regional fault-line has moved on: It is no longer so much Iran. GCC States have a new agenda, and are now far more concerned to contain Turkey, and to put a halt to Turkish influence spreading throughout the Levant. GCC states fear that President Erdogan, given the emotional and psychological wave of antipathy unleashed by the Khashoggi murder, may be mobilising newly re-energised Muslim Brotherhood, Gulf networks. The aim being to leverage present Gulf economic woes, and the general hollowing out of any broader GCC ‘vision’, in order to undercut the rigid Gulf ‘Arab system’ (tribal monarchy). The Brotherhood favours a soft Islamist reform of the Gulf monarchies – along lines, such as that once advocated by Jamal Khashoggi .

Turkey’s leadership in any case is convinced that it was the UAE (MbZ specifically) that was the author behind the Kurdish buffer being constructed, and mini-state ‘plot’ against Turkey – in conjunction with Israel and the US. Understandably, Gulf states now fear possible Turkish retribution for their weaponising of Kurdish aspirations in this way.

And Turkey is seen (by GCC States) as already working in close co-ordination with fellow Muslim Brotherhood patron and GCC member, Qatar, to divide the collapsing Council. This prefigures a new round to the MB versus Saudi Wahhabism spat for the soul of Sunni Islam.

GGC states therefore, are hoping to stand-up a ‘front’ to balance Turkey in the Levant. And to this end, they are trying to recruit President Assad back into the Arab fold (which is to say, into the Arab League), and to have him act, jointly with them, as an Arab counter to Turkey.

The point here is obvious: President Assad is closely allied to Iran – and so is Moscow and Turkey. To be fashionably Iranophobic – as Pompeo might wish the GCC to be – simply would spoil the GCC’s anti-Turkey ‘play’. Syria indeed may be (justly) skeptical of Turkey’s actions and intent in Syria, but from President Assad’s perspective, Iran and Russia are absolutely crucial to the managing of an erratic Turkey. Turkey does represent an existential Syrian concern. And trying to lever President Assad – or Lebanon or Turkey – away from Iran, would be absurd. It won’t happen. And the GCC states have enough nous to understand this now (after their stinging defeat in Syria). The Gulf anti-Iranian stance has had ‘the burner’ turned sharply down, (except when their need is to stroke US feathers).

They can see clearly that the Master of Ceremonies in the Levant – putting together the new regional ‘order’ – is not Mr Bolton, but Moscow, with Tehran (and occasionally Ankara), playing their equal part ‘from behind the curtain’.

Presumably, America’s intelligence services know, (and Gulf states certainly are aware), that in any case, Iranian forces are almost all gone from Syria (though of course Syria’s ‘Iranian connection’ remains as firm, as ever) – even as Pompeo and Israel say the precisely the opposite: that they are pushing-back hard at the ‘threatening’ Iranian military ‘footprint’ in Syria. Few in the region will believe it.

The second notable emerging regional fault line then, evidently is the one that is opening between Turkey and the US and Israel. Turkey ‘gets it’: Erdogan ‘gets it’ very clearly: that Washington now deeply distrusts him, suspects that Turkey is accelerating into Moscow and Beijing’s orbit, and that DC would be happy to see him gone – and a more NATO-friendly leader installed in his stead.

And it must be clear to Washington too ‘why’ Turkey would be heading ‘East’. Erdogan precisely needs Russia and Iran to act as MCs to moderate his difficult relations with Damascus for the future. Erdogan needs Russia and Iran even more, to broker a suitable political solution to the Kurds in Syria. He needs China too, to support his economy.

And Erdogan is fully aware that Israel (more than Gulf States) still hankers after the old Ben Gurion ideal of an ethnic Kurdish state – allied with Israel, and sitting atop major oil resources – to be inserted at the very pivot to south-west and central Asia: And at Turkey’s vulnerable underbelly.

The Israeli’s articulated their support for a Kurdish state quite plainly at the time of Barzani’s failed independence initiative in Iraq. But Erdogan simply, unmistakably, has said to this ‘never’ (to Bolton, this week). Nonetheless, Ankara still needs Russian and Iranian collaboration to allow Bolton to ‘climb down his tree’ of a Kurdish mini-state in Syria. He needs Russia to broker a Syrian-led buffer, vice an American-Kurdish tourniquet, strapped around his southern border.

It is unlikely however, that despite the real threat that America’s arming of the Kurds poses to Turkey, that Erdogan really wants to invade Syria – though he threatens it – and though John Bolton’s ‘conditions’ may end by leaving Turkey no option, but to do it. Since, for sure, Erdogan understands that a messy Turkish invasion of Syria would send the delicately balanced Turkish Lire into free-fall.

Still … Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia now all want America gone from Syria. And for a moment, it seemed it might proceed smoothly after Trump had acquiesced to Erdogan’s arguments, during their celebrated telephone call. But then – Senator Lindsay Graham demurred (against the backdrop of massed howls of anguish issuing from the Beltway foreign policy think-tanks). Bolton did the walk-back, by making US withdrawal from Syria contingent on conditions (ones seemingly designed not to be met) and not tied any specific timeline. President Erdogan was not amused.

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set: The US is leaving Syria. Bolton’s attempted withdrawal-reversal has been rebuffed. And the US, in any event, forfeited the confidence of the Kurds in consequence to the original Trump statement. The Kurds now are orientated toward Damascus and Russia is mediating a settlement.

It may take a while, but the US is going. Kurdish forces (other than those linked with the PKK) are likely to be assimilated into the Syrian army, and the ‘buffer’ will not be directed against Turkey, but will be a mix of Syrian army and Kurdish elements – under Syrian command – but whose overall conduct towards Turkey will be invigilated by Russia. And the Syrian army will, in due time, clear Idlib from a resurgent al-Qaida (HTS).

The Arab states are returning to their embassies in Damascus – partly out of fear that the whipsaw of American policy, its radical polarisation, and its proclivity to be wholly or partially ‘walked-back’ by the Deep State – might leave the Gulf unexpectedly ‘orphaned’ at any time. In effect, the GCC states are ‘hedging’ against this risk by trying to reconnect a bifurcated Arab sphere, and to give it a new ‘purpose’ and credibility – as a balance against Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood (Syria’s old nemesis).

And yet – there remains still another layer to this calculus, as described by veteran Middle East journalist, Elijah Magnier:

“Indeed the Levant is returning to the centre of Middle East and world attention in a stronger position than in 2011. Syria has advanced precision missiles that can hit any building in Israel. Assad also has an air defence system he would have never dreamed of before 2011 – thanks to Israel’s continuous violation of its airspace, and its defiance of Russian authority. Hezbollah has constructed bases for its long and medium range precision missiles in the mountains and has created a bond with Syria that it could never have established – if not for the war. Iran has established a strategic brotherhood with Syria, thanks to its role in defeating the regime change plan.

NATO’s support for the growth of ISIS has created a bond between Syria and Iraq that no Muslim or Baathist link could ever have created: Iraq has a “carte blanche” to bomb ISIS locations in Syria without the consent of the Syrian leadership, and the Iraqi security forces can walk into Syria anytime they see fit to fight ISIS. The anti-Israel axis has never been stronger than it is today. That is the result of 2011-2018 war imposed on Syria”.

Yes. This is the third of the newly emergent fault-lines: that of Israel on the one hand, and the emerging reality in the Syrian north, on the other – a shadow that has returned to haunt the original instigators of the ‘war’ to undermine Syria. PM Netanyahu since has put all the Israeli eggs into the Trump family ‘basket’. It was Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump which was presented in Israel as being the true ‘Deal of the Century’ (and not the Palestinian one). Yet when Bibi complained forcefully about US withdrawal from Syria (leaving Syria vulnerable, Netanyahu asserts, to an Iranian insertion of smart missiles), Trump nonchalantly replied that the US gives Israel $ 4.5 billion per year – “You’ll be all right”, Trump riposted.

It was seen in Israel as an extraordinary slap to the PM’s face. But Israelis cannot avoid, but to acknowledge, some responsibility for creating precisely the circumstances of which they now loudly complain.

Bottom line: Things have not gone according to plan: America is not shaping the new Levantine ‘order’ – Moscow is. And Israel’s continual, blatant disregard of Russia’s own interests in the Levant, firstly infuriated, and finally has provoked the Russian high command into declaring the northern Middle East a putative no-fly zone for Israel. This represents a major strategic reversal for Netanyahu (and the US).

And finally, it is this repeating pattern of statements being made by the US President on foreign policy that are then almost casually contradicted, or ‘conditioned’, by some or other part of the US bureaucracy, that poses to the region (and beyond) the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. The pattern clearly is one of an isolated President, with officials emptying his statements of executive authority (until subsequently endorsed, or denied, by the US bureaucracy). It is making Trump almost irrelevant (in terms of the setting of foreign policy).

Is this then a stealth process – knowingly contrived – incrementally to remove Trump from power? A hollowing out of his Presidential prerogatives (leaving him only as a disruptive Twitterer) – achieved, without all the disruption and mess, of formally removing him from office? We shall see.

And what next? Well, as Simon Henderson observes, no one is sure – everyone is left wondering:

“What’s up with Secretary Pompeo’s extended tour of the Middle East? The short answer is that he is trying to sell/explain President Trump’s “we are leaving Syria” policy to America’s friends … Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Manama, Bahrain; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE); Doha, Qatar; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Muscat, Oman; Kuwait City, Kuwait. Wow, even with his own jet and no immigration hassles, that’s an exhausting itinerary … The fact that there now are eight stops in eight days, probably reflects the amount of explaining that needs to be done.”

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Kaspersky Lab snags former NSA contractor stealing hacking tools

Semi-buried article did see publication on Politico and Fox News, but Kaspersky Lab was not vindicated for its help in solving this case.

Seraphim Hanisch

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on

In a time known for Smear Campaigns of the Strangest Kind, we have seen Russia blamed for being there, for interfering and preventing the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Presidency, putting Donald Trump in the White House instead. One of Russia’s companies, Kaspersky Lab, has a particularly notable history of late; that is to say, this computer security company has found itself on the receiving end of quite frankly, illegal levels of slander and punishment without cause from the US government. Kaspersky Lab owner and CEO tried very hard to come to the US to discuss these matters with a Congressional committee, only to have the meeting shelved into limbo.

However, the truth made itself manifest when it became known that Kaspersky Lab actually helped the American FBI catch Harold T. Martin III, who was found to be attempting to steal some of the American government’s most sensitive hacking tools. This fact emerged on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, when sources familiar with this investigation spoke to The Politico magazine. Politico says the following in its report:

[Kaspersky Lab’s] role in exposing Martin is a remarkable twist in an increasingly bizarre case that is believed to be the largest breach of classified material in U.S. history.

It indicates that the government’s own internal monitoring systems and investigators had little to do with catching Martin, who prosecutors say took home an estimated 50 terabytes of data from the NSA and other government offices over a two-decade period, including some of the NSA’s most sophisticated and sensitive hacking tools.

The revelation also introduces an ironic turn in the negative narrative the U.S. government has woven about the Russian company in recent years.

Under both the Obama and Trump administrations, officials have accused the company of colluding with Russian intelligence to steal and expose classified NSA tools, and in 2016 the FBI engaged in an aggressive behind-the-scenes campaign to discredit the company and get its software banned from U.S. government computers on national security grounds. But even while the FBI was doing this, the Russian firm was tipping off the bureau to an alleged intelligence thief in the government’s own midst.

“It’s irony piled on irony that people who worked at Kaspersky, who were already in the sights of the U.S. intelligence community, disclosed to them that they had this problem,” said Stewart Baker, general counsel for the NSA in the 1990s and a current partner at Steptoe and Johnson. It’s also discouraging, he noted, that the NSA apparently still hasn’t “figured out a good way to find unreliable employees who are mishandling some of their most sensitive stuff.”

The Politico piece as well as Fox News’ variant still seem somewhat determined to keep that negative narrative in place, with Fox assessing that the FBI had a “strange bedfellow” in the investigation, and what appears to be an absolutely enormous presumption in Politico’s piece:

The first message sent on Aug. 13, 2016, asked one of the researchers to arrange a conversation with “Yevgeny” — presumably Kaspersky Lab CEO Eugene Kaspersky, whose given name is Yevgeny Kaspersky. The message didn’t indicate the reason for the conversation or the topic, but a second message following right afterward said, “Shelf life, three weeks,” suggesting the request, or the reason for it, would be relevant for a limited time.

However, there are many people in the world named “Yevgeny” (Evgeny, or Eugene) in Russia, and presumably many Evgenys in Kaspersky Lab itself. The notion that the CEO of the company would be involved in this appears to be an absolutely enormous leap of logic.

The maintenance of a negative narrative about Kaspersky Lab has been one of the most frustratingly effective examples of American propaganda in use since Russia overall became increasingly used as America’s newest scapegoat.

This is also not the first time that Kaspersky Lab saved the day for an American intelligence agency. In 2017 the same company’s services found 122 viruses on an NSA employee’s computer.

Kaspersky Lab itself is a highly sophisticated company based in Moscow, Russia, specializing in securing computers against malware, viruses, ransomware and all manner of invasive efforts by the bad guys out on the ‘Net, and among the providers of such services it consistently rates among the best in the industry, including in US surveys. While US retailers Best Buy, Office Depot and the US government have banned selling or running Kaspersky Lab software, European allies of the US have not even breathed the slightest bit of discontent with the AV provider. The narrative is the only thing that is actually wrong, and since Evgeny Kaspersky’s education was largely at the Academy that trained former KGB personnel, (now called FSB), the anti-Russia narrative in the US the acronym “KGB” is usually enough to alarm most low-information American news readers and watchers. 

However, logic and awareness of life in modern Russia, point to the fact that getting an education on security at the FSB Academy ought to be equivalent to the same education at the CIA. Who would know better about how to create security than those people specially trained to compromise it? However the propaganda vantage point that Kaspersky afforded the US government in its drive to get rid of President Donald Trump made the Russian company too juicy a target to ignore.

Over the last year or two, however, this narrative has slowly been falling apart, with this Politico article being a significant, though still small vindication of the company’s prowess and abilities.

That a Russian Internet Security company could succeed where American enterprises failed, and especially where it helped the Americans catch a man who was stealing very powerful hacking tools, is a significant story, indeed.

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