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Ukraine goes on spiralling down

As political conflict continues and corruption remains as before even Ukraine’s most fervid Western friends are now in despair

Alexander Mercouris

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As news of the bizarre antics in Kiev involving former Georgian President Mikheil Saakachvili – now  released again this time by a court after having been arrested for a second time – continues, I recently read an article about Ukraine which gives just about as bleak a picture of the state of the country as it gets

….the news out of Ukraine over the past few weeks has been dire.  The country’s prosecutor general has disrupted investigations by its National Anti-Corruption Bureau with the apparent consent of Mr. Poroshenko.  The interior minister has intervened to protect his son from similar scrutiny.   Officers in the security service, the SBU, have tried to arrest Mikheil Saakachvili, the former Georgian President turned Ukrainian corruption fighter, only to be driven back by protesters.  Prosecutors are targeting anti-corruption activists; the army, interior ministry troops and private militias work at cross-purposes, answering to different politicians or oligarchs.  Mr. Poroshenko’s government has been seriously weakened.

This is in fact an accurate description of the sort of things that happen in Ukrainian politics in any given week.  The only thing that makes these events at all unusual is that they are being written about in this way by a journal which up to now has been one of the most fervid supporters of Ukraine’s Maidan “revolution” (aka “the Revolution of Dignity”).

That journal – from whose latest article on Ukraine the above extract is taken – is The Economist.

The Economist is not the only pro-Maidan anti-Russian journal to write recently about Ukraine in this way.  An article in the website of the rigidly Atlanticist Atlantic Council makes the same points.

Hand-wringing about continued corruption in Ukraine following the Maidan “revolution” is nothing new.  Former US Vice-President Joe Biden said many of the same things about corruption in Ukraine and the need for ‘reform’ there during a visit to Ukraine in September last year.

The latest flurry of Western complaints about the state of Ukraine come alongside publication of data about the disastrous decline of Ukraine’s economy.  Here is how an article from RT sums it up

The latest research shows the people of Ukraine have the worst living standards among all of Europe.

An average Ukrainian earns just €190 per month, or just a little over $220, according to the study by Texty.org.ua. The highest average net salary, according to the analysts, is in Switzerland. An average Swiss earns no less than $5,000 per month after taxes.

In November, Ukrainian Economy Minister Stepan Kubiv admitted the economy lost $15 billion annually after Russia closed its borders to consumer goods from Ukraine, almost a fifth of the country’s GDP.

The current gross domestic product of Ukraine is $93 billion. Before the Maidan revolution at the end of 2013, Ukraine’s GDP was $183 billion.

The RT article overstates the extent of the contraction of Ukraine’s GDP.  The figures given are based on calculations of Ukraine’s GDP based on the exchange rate of Ukraine’s currency relative to the US dollar.  This is an artificial measure of GDP vulnerable to changes in the exchange rate.

If the more accurate purchasing power parity measure of GDP is used then Ukraine’s GDP increases to $368 billion, which however is still less than a tenth of Russia’s.

This is a precipitous decline for what was once one of the most economically developed regions of the USSR, and which because of its Soviet legacy of strong industries, rich farmlands, large population, abundant natural resources and access to the sea ought to be a rich country.

Suffice to say that whilst living standards in Russia are now significantly higher than they were before the Soviet collapse, Ukrainian living standards – which have never recovered to their Soviet levels – have since 2014 fallen back still further.

Ukraine’s tragedy is that there appears to be no route out of this crisis.

As it happens every so often one comes across claims that the situation in Ukraine is ‘stabilising’.  Then something happens – such as the bizarre antics involving Mikheil Saakashvili – which shows the opposite.

On the question of the economy, I remember having identical discussions in the mid 1990s with various people about the ‘economic stabilisation’ which was supposed to be happening in Russia.

When an economy has contracted as severely as Russia’s did in the early 1990s and as Ukraine’s did in the period 2014 to 2015 even minimal amounts of economic activity – such as always happen even in the most collapsed economies – can distort the statistics to make the situation look better than it really is.

The mere fact for example that Ukraine this year has received $4 billion from abroad – $3 billion which it borrowed itself at very high interest, $1 billion which it was given by the IMF – which is a very considerable amount of money for a country like Ukraine (4.3% of GDP calculated on a nominal basis, 1% of GDP calculated on a purchasing power parity basis) will have made the GDP statistics about the economy look better than actual economic conditions in the country really are.

This is of course always assuming that the statistics are being collected and collated properly, which in countries such as Russia was in the 1990s and such as Ukraine is now they never are.

That Ukraine’s statistics are not reliable has in fact been confirmed by studies of its population statistics, which show massive distortions intended to conceal how bad the country’s demographic situation has become.  There is no reason to suppose that the same distortions do not affect the economic data.

Again the example of 1990s Russia is useful.  It is now generally acknowledged that Russia’s real economy continued to contract every year throughout the period from 1994 to 1998 when Boris Yeltsin’s government and the IMF were claiming to see in the statistics evidence of a ‘stabilisation’.  The truth became clear in 1998 when the whole House of Cards, which was what the Russian economy had by then become, simply collapsed.

The event which precipitated the Russian economic collapse in 1998 was a collapse in oil prices.  The event which averted a total collapse of Ukraine’s economy in the period 2014 to 2015 was also a collapse in oil prices.

The benefits of that oil price collapse have however been squandered.

The Maidan regime used the space the collapse in oil prices gave it to increase spending on the military and to reduce further Ukraine’s economic ties to Russia.

This is the exact opposite of what a Ukrainian government really concerned about the economy would have done.  If Ukraine’s government had really been concerned about stabilising the economy it would have sought a rapprochement with Russia – Ukraine’s obvious energy supplier and the traditional market of its goods – and sought Russia’s help to bring the war in eastern Ukraine to an end.

None of that can however happen whilst the present Maidan regime remains in power since it would represent a repudiation of the Maidan movement’s entire programme, which is to distance Ukraine as far from Russia politically, culturally and economically as possible.

Which brings me back to the cause of Ukraine’s crisis.

Notwithstanding protestations to the contrary made by various people – including by the way President Putin – the issue behind the political conflict which in February 2014 brought the Maidan movement to power was not corruption; it was Ukraine’s relations with Russia.

In 2014 Ukraine’s oligarchs overwhelmingly backed the Maidan movement and bankrolled its protests since they were adamantly opposed to closer relations with Russia but wanted instead closer relations with the West.

This was because – diametrically opposite to what Western commentators say – they were alarmed by the way Putin’s government after 2000 managed to rein in Russia’s oligarchs, and were alarmed that if Russian influence in Ukraine grew so that Ukraine became fully integrated in the Eurasian institutions the same thing would be done to them.

The Western powers backed Ukraine’s oligarchs in 2014 because their entire policy since the USSR broke up in 1991 has been to detach Ukraine from Russia.  This was what the benighted association agreement between the EU and Ukraine – the nominal issue behind the 2014 Maidan protests – was ultimately all about.

It was this mutual opposition to closer ties between Ukraine and Russia which created the commonality of interest between Ukraine’s oligarchs and the Western powers, both in 2014 and earlier, which set the scene for the 2014 Maidan ‘revolution’.

That ‘revolution’ of course needed its foot-soldiers who were to be found in Ukraine’s various ultra-rightist and neo-Nazi groups.  However as The Economist slips out in the article which I have quoted from above, these “private militias….answer to different politicians or oligarchs” ie. they are ultimately controlled by the oligarchs as well.

Needless to say the great majority of Ukraine’s people were not involved in the 2014 events, and based on what I am hearing from people who know about the situation in Ukraine today, they have now become utterly cynical and disillusioned.

To imagine that such a system created as a result of what it is not altogether wrong to call a criminal conspiracy (after all it did result in the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s constitutional and democratically elected government) is capable of carrying out ‘reform’ or ending corruption in Ukraine is beyond fanciful, and it is testament to the seemingly unlimited detachment from reality of some people in the West that they still appear to expect it.

The trouble is that though the people of Ukraine are utterly cynical and disillusioned, the extraordinary violence the Maidan regime can be counted on to use against people who it is able to define as ‘pro-Russian’ makes it all but impossible to see how a change of course can be brought about.

This opens the way for chancers and adventurers like Mikheil Saakashvili to make their pitch, which is what we are seeing in Ukraine now.

Needless to say if Ukraine had a properly functioning political system someone like Saakashvili would be making no impact there at all.  The fact that he is making an impact despite the minimal level of his public support (no more than 2% according to some polls) shows how dysfunctional Ukraine’s political system actually is.

I would add that given how corrupt and politicised the Ukrainian judiciary has become, the fact that a court has now ordered Saakashvili’s release is a sure sign he is getting support from elements within the Ukrainian power system (Tymoshenko? Kolomoisky?) who are hostile to Poroshenko, and who are using Saakashvili as a weapon against Poroshenko.

The victims in all this are of course the people of Ukraine, who are trapped in a nightmare created for them by Western policy in exactly the same way and to the same extent that the people of Libya say are.

No wonder that with their living standards having collapsed and with all hope of things getting better having gone they are now voting with their feet, leaving Ukraine in growing numbers, causing Ukraine’s population to collapse, just as its economy has.

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Germany Wants Nuclear Bombers

Germany does not manufacture atomic weapons but has come to consider itself as a nuclear power because it has vectors to use them.

The Duran

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Via VoltaireNet.org:


Germany’s armed forces are currently studying the possibility of acquiring nuclear bombers capable of using the new American B61-12 atomic bombs.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon itself plans to deploy these new atomic bombs in the German region of Eifel, in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The German air force already has multi-tasking Tornado warplanes, which are already capable of deploying American atomic bombs. But those aircraft are going to be replaced, possibly, by European-developed Eurofighters, or by United States manufactured F/A-18 Super Hornets.

Either way, the warplane that Germany selects will have to be equipped with the AMAC (Aircraft Monitoring and Control) system, which allows the use of the new American atomic bombs and enables the regulation of the power of the explosion as well as at what height the bombs explode after they are launched.

Germany does not manufacture atomic weapons but has come to consider itself as a nuclear power because it has vectors to use them, and believes that this gives it the right to sit on the UN Security Council sharing the permanent member position occupied by France.

Both countries would thus represent the European Union, under the auspices of NATO.

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1st since Notre Dame: Yellow Vests back despite ‘unifying’ disaster & they are angry

‘Yellow Vests’ march in Paris for 23rd straight week.

RT

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Via RT…


Yellow Vests protests brought clashes and tear gas back to the streets of Paris, despite politicians’ calls for “unity” in the wake of the Notre Dame fire. For protesters, the response to the fire only showed more inequality.

Saturday’s protests mark the 23rd straight weekend of anti-government demonstrations, but the first since Notre Dame de Paris went up in flames on Monday. Officials were quick to criticize the protesters for returning to the streets so soon after the disaster.

“The rioters will be back tomorrow,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters on Friday. “The rioters have visibly not been moved by what happened at Notre-Dame.”

For many of the protesters, grief over the destruction of the 800-year-old landmark has made way for anger. With smoke still rising from Notre Dame, a group of French tycoons and businessmen pledged €1 billion to the cathedral’s reconstruction, money that the Yellow Vests say could be better spent elsewhere.

“If they can give dozens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, they should stop telling us there is no money to respond to the social emergency,” trade union leader Philippe Martinez told France 24.

Saturday’s protests saw a return to scenes familiar since the Yellow Vests first mobilized in November to protest a fuel tax hike. Demonstrators in Paris’ Bastille district set barricades on fire and smashed vehicles, and police deployed tear gas to keep the crowds at bay.

Sporadic incidents of vandalism and looting were reported across the city, and some journalists even reported rioters throwing feces at police.

60,000 police officers were deployed across the country, and in Paris, a security perimeter was set up around Notre Dame. A planned march that would have passed the site was banned by police, and elsewhere, 137 protesters had been arrested by mid afternoon, police sources told Euronews.

Beginning as a show of anger against rising fuel costs in November, the Yellow Vests movement quickly evolved into a national demonstration of rage against falling living standards, income inequality, and the perceived elitism and pro-corporation policies of President Emmanuel Macron. Over 23 weeks of unrest, Macron has made several concessions to the protesters’ demands, but has thus far been unable to quell the rising dissent.

After Notre Dame caught fire on Monday, the president postponed a television address to the nation, during which he was expected to unveil a package of tax cuts and other economic reforms, another measure to calm the popular anger in France.

Macron’s address will be held on Thursday.

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O Canada! The True North Strong and Free – Not

Maybe it’s past time for Canadians to get serious again about their independence.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Canadian visitors to Washington sometimes wonder why their embassy stands at the foot of Capitol Hill.

The answer? To be close to where Canada’s laws are made.

A main showcase of Ottawa’s craven servility to Washington is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s complicity in the US-led regime change operation being conducted against Venezuela. Not content with ruining his own country with multiculturalism, polysexualism, and the like, Li’l Justin has acted in lockstep with Big Brother to the south inslapping sanctions on Venezuelan officials and serving as a US agent of influence, especially with other countries in the western hemisphere:

‘A Canadian Press report published at the end of January revealed that Canadian diplomats worked systematically over several months with their Latin American counterparts in Caracas to prepare the current regime-change operation, pressing [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro’s right-wing opponents to set aside their differences and mount a joint challenge to the government. “The turning point,” said the Canadian Press [Global News], “came Jan. 4, when the Lima Group … rejected the legitimacy of Maduro’s May 2018 election victory and his looming January 10 inauguration, while recognizing the ‘legitimately elected’ National Assembly.” The report cited an unnamed Canadian official as saying the opposition “were really looking for international support of some kind, to be able to hold onto a reason as to why they should unite, and push somebody like Juan Guaidó.”

‘One day prior to Maduro’s inauguration, [Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia] Freeland spoke to Guaidó, the newly-elected National Assembly speaker, by telephone to urge him to challenge the elected Venezuelan president.’

But that’s not all. Canada is out front and center in the “Five Eyes” intelligence agencies’ war on China’s Huawei – with direct prompting from US legislators and intelligence.  As explained by Col. Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Gen. Colin Powell, it’s not that Huawei violated any law when circumventing US sanctions but it is the US that is acting illegally by unilaterally imposing sanctions that were never agreed to internationally. But that’s OK – when it comes to Washington’s claims of jurisdiction over every human being on the planet, Justin and Chrystia are happy to oblige!

Also, let’s not forget Chrystia’s role in keeping the pot boiling in Ukraine. It would of course be cynical (and probably racist) to attribute anything relating to Ukraine to her own interesting family background …

To be fair, the lickspittle attitude of Canadian officials towards their masters south of the 49th parallel is hardly unique in the world. Also to be fair, it’s natural and would be generally beneficial for Canada to have a positive relationship with a powerful, kindred neighbor rather than a negative one. Think of Austria’s ties to Germany, or the Trans-Tasman relationship of Australia and New Zealand, or the links that still exist between Russia and Ukraine despite efforts by the west to set them against each other (as, for example, Spain and Portugal were at loggerheads for several centuries, when the latter was a loyal ally of Spain’s foe, Great Britain, to such an extent that Portugal was sometimes shown on maps and globes in the same pink as British possessions; a similar situation existed between Argentina and British ally Chile).

A close and mutually advantageous relationship is one thing, but Canada’s de facto loss of independence is another. Not only does the US control Canada’s diplomacy, military, and intelligence but also her financial system (with, among other levers, the notorious FATCA law, which places Canadian institutions under the supervision of the IRS, with Canada’s revenue service acting, care of the Canadian taxpayer, as a cat’s paw for not only the IRS but the NSA and other snooping agencies). As explained by one Canadian nationalist (yes, they do exist!), the redoubtable David Orchard, trade is also a critical issue:

‘Canada …, after almost three decades of “free trade” with the U.S., has more than $1.2 trillion in federal and provincial debt, large deficits at every level, no national child or dental care, high university tuition, miserly old age pensions, years of massive budget cuts, and giveaway prices for its exports of oil, gas, timber and minerals.

‘For 150 years, great Canadian leaders have warned that without an economic border with the United States, we would soon no longer have a political border.

‘We once owned the world’s largest farm machinery maker, Massey Harris, headquartered in Toronto; built the world’s largest and most respected marketer of wheat and barley, the Canadian Wheat Board, based in Winnipeg; created a great transcontinental railway system, beginning in Montreal, which tied our country together; and saw Vancouver’s shipyards produce the beautiful Fast Cat ferry.

‘Instead of spending hundreds of billions on foreign-made machinery, electronics, automobiles, ships, fighter jets and passenger aircraft (even payroll systems for federal employees!), we can build our own, both for the domestic and export market.

‘We once designed and built the world’s most advanced jet interceptor, the Avro Arrow, so we know it can be done. [Emphasis added] With Canada’s resources and ingenuity, it could create a prosperous, domestically controlled economy that would give Canadians multiple benefits, security and pride of ownership. All that is required is some of the will that drove our ancestors to create an alternate power in North America. As George-Étienne Cartier, the great Québécois Father of Confederation, put it, “Now everything depends on our patriotism.”’ [Note: Orchard is the author of the must-read book The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism. To begin at the beginning, in the late 1680s, as part of English-French rivalry in North America, Massachusetts Puritans sought to root out the nest of popish deviltry known as Quebec. Following their disastrous 1690 defeat, they decided to fight Satan closer to home by hanging witches. The rest, as they say, is history…]

Scratch a Canadian patriot and you’ll hear about the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow. As a watershed moment in Canada’s downward slide into subservience, the cancellation of what by all accounts was a magnificent aircraft – and a snapshot of what Canada’s international competitiveness (including in advanced aerospace) could have looked like had it been able to develop independently – might have been the point of being sucked into the American vortex. As noted by one response to my suggestion that Ottawa’s stance on Venezuela amounted to Canada’s annexation by the US: “Canadian here…unfortunately, the above is true (not literally of course, but in practice). It goes back even before the time of Diefenbaker, who canceled our Avro Arrow program on demand from the US – thus destroying our aerospace industry and causing brain drain to the US/Europe.”

To this day, the decision of then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to kill the Arrow project (and “put 14,528 Avro employees, as well as nearly 15,000 other employees in the Avro supply chain of outside suppliers, out of work”) on what came to be known as “Black Friday,” February 20, 1959, remains controversial and shrouded in mystery. A mix of budgetary, political, technological, and personality factors has been cited, none of them conclusive. Pressure from the US side, including unwillingness of Washington to purchase a Canadian aircraft when the US could pressure them to buy American planes and missiles, no doubt played a key role: “Instead of the CF-105, the RCAF invested in a variety of Century Series fighters from the United States. These included the F-104 Starfighter (46 percent of which were lost in Canadian service), and (more controversial, given the cancellation of the Arrow) the CF-101 Voodoo. The Voodoo served as an interceptor, but at a level of performance generally below that expected of the Arrow.”

While we may never know reliably why Diefenbaker cancelled the Arrow or how Canada or Canadian industry might have followed a different path, there’s no question of the superior capabilities of the Arrow. As it happens, one of the few pilots who had a chance to test the Arrow in an impromptu friendly dogfight is now-retired USAF fighter pilot Col. George Jatras, later US Air Attaché in Moscow (also, this analyst’s father). As he related in 2017:

‘I’ve received a number of messages in the last couple days about this bird, including some that say it may be revived. I don’t know how The Arrow would compare to today’s aircraft, but I had a first-hand lesson on how it faired against the F-102.

‘In 1959, I was stationed at Suffolk County AFB on Long Island with the 2nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron. We had an informal exchange program with a Canadian fighter squadron stationed near Montreal. From time to time, two or four aircraft from one of the squadrons would fly to the other’s base on a weekend cross country.

‘On one such exchange, I was #3 in a four ship formation led by [former Tuskegee airmanErnie Craigwell (I don’t recall who the other pilots were). As we entered Canadian airspace, cruising at about 40,000 ft., we spotted a contrail well above our altitude (probably at 50,000ft.) and closing very fast.  As the other aircraft appeared to be passing by, we could clearly see the delta shaped wing and knew it was the Avro Arrow that the Canadian pilots had told us about. Then, instead of just passing by, he rolled in on us! Ernie called for a break and we split into elements. When we talked about the encounter afterwards we all agreed that our first thought was, “This guy is in for a surprise; he doesn’t know that he’s taking on the F-102.”  Well, we were the ones in for a surprise. Even with two elements covering each other, not one of us could get on his tail. His power and maneuverability were awesome.  After he had played with us for a few minutes, like a cat with four mice, he zoomed back up to about 50K and went on his way. What an aircraft! What a shame that it never went into production.’

What is perhaps most curious about the Arrow’s demise is that “everything was ordered brutally destroyed; plans, tools, parts, and the completed planes themselves were to be cut up, destroyed, scrapped and everything made to disappear.”  Why? Well, security of course! Don’t engage in conspiracy theories …

The Canadian national anthem finishes with a pledge: “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.” It should be noted that understandably resentful Loyalists fleeing the US following the American Revolution were a major contribution to the growth of Canada’s English-speaking population. American troops – back when we were the plucky underdog fighting the mighty British Empire – invaded Canada in 1775 and during the War of 1812 but were defeated. Relations got testy during the American Civil War as well, and even afterwards the US was wary of a proposed united “Kingdom of Canada,” hence the choice of the name “Dominion” in 1967. If today’s Canadians think we-all down here don’t know whom they’ve mostly had in mind to “stand on guard” against all this time, they’d better think again.

Maybe it’s past time for Canadians to get serious again about their independence – eh?

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