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So what happened to Donald Trump’s Korean War 2.0?

The fact that April has passed with no military action in the Korean Peninsula taking place and the crisis unresolved shows talk of unilateral US military action was a bluff.

Alexander Mercouris

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News that North Korea has tested a ballistic missile which hit the Sea of Japan 500 kilometres from the Russian coastline begs the question of what happened to the great crisis in the Korean Peninsula that the world media was talking about so excitedly throughout much of April?

As The Duran’s readers may recall, during April the headlines were filled with stories of North Korea planning a sixth nuclear test, of President Trump warning of the US being prepared to take unilateral action if North Korea’s nuclear programme was not stopped, of the the US carrier Carl Vinson with its accompanying “armada” closing on North Korea and of the US submarine USS Michigan with its vast battery of cruise missiles doing the same, of the entire US Senate being called to the White House to be briefed about the threat from North Korea, of the ‘Mother of All Bombs’ being dropped on ISIS in Afghanistan as a ‘warning’ to North Korea, and of Wang Yi – China’s Foreign Minister – warning that war might break out on the Korean Peninsula at any moment.

In the event April has passed with no sign of a North Korean nuclear test and no military action by the US.  North Korea since then has dropped out of the news whilst South Korea has elected a new more liberal minded President – Moon Jae-in – who seems intent on reducing tensions in the Korean Peninsula, has spoken of his desire to travel to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong-un, and who within a day of his inauguration spoke over the telephone with Russia’s President Putin, with the Kremlin’s summary of their conversation containing these interesting words that appear to signal Moon Jae-in’s strong opposition to any attack on North Korea

While exchanging views on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, both leaders underlined the importance of finding ways to resolve the crisis politically and diplomatically.

(bold italics added)

Whilst unilateral military action against North Korea by the US against South Korean opposition might in theory be possible, in practice it would be politically extremely difficult.  The fact that President Moon Jae-in appears to oppose it makes it extremely unlikely it will happen.

So why did the war that seemed so near to happening in April never happen?

I have already said why I strongly doubt the widely held view that all the talk of war in April was to provide political cover for the US to deploy THAAD to South Korea.  Briefly, THAAD was going to be deployed anyway and there was no need for the US to escalate tensions to such extraordinary levels in order to achieve it and the risk involved in escalating tensions was far too great to justify doing it for such a purpose.

There is a possibility that war was averted because North Korea was deterred by the threats issuing from the US, and that this explains why it did not carry out a nuclear test.  Alternatively it may be that US threats scared China to threaten North Korea with all embracing sanctions – including supposedly a 6 month embargo on oil supplies – and that it was this which caused North Korea to put off conducting a nuclear test, which in turn took away the reason for the US to carry out a military attack.

However the problem with these theories is that we do not actually know that North Korea was planning a nuclear test in April and was deterred by the US and/or China from carrying it out.

North Korea never announces its nuclear tests in advance and when they take place it usually comes as a surprise.  Contrary to what is often claimed, there is no exact correlation between North Korean nuclear tests and North Korean public holidays, with only one nuclear test – the last test, which took place on 9th September 2016 – being held on the same day as a North Korean public holiday (the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean Republic).  The fact that North Korea was due to celebrate two important public holidays in April – the anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth on 15th April and the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean army on 21st April – is not in itself a reason to think that a further nuclear test was planned for April to coincide with either of these days, despite widespread suggestions in the media that that was the case.

North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests in the eleven years since its first nuclear test on 9th October 2006, with two tests (one allegedly of a hydrogen bomb and one allegedly of a miniaturised nuclear device suitable for use in a missile warhead) carried out in 2016.  A sixth test in April 2017 would have meant three tests over a period of fifteen months, which would have signalled a very marked acceleration in North Korea’s nuclear test programme.  Whilst that is possible it is actually unlikely especially as computer simulations well within the abilities of North Korea’s computer technology make nuclear tests far less important today than they were during the time of the US’s and of the USSR’s nuclear test programmes in the 1950s.

North Korea has repeatedly said that it will not be deterred from carrying out nuclear tests because of threats of military action by the US.  North Korea took the unusual step at the beginning of May of also publicly criticising China for threatening sanctions in the event of a further nuclear test.  Reuters reports parts of the commentary of the Korean Central News Agency (North Korea’s official news agency) as saying the following

The KCNA commentary charged that the Chinese articles had attempted to shift the blame to Pyongyang for “deteriorated relations” between China and North Korea and U.S. deployment of strategic assets to the region.

It also accused China of “hyping up” damage caused by North Korean nuclear tests to China’s three northeastern provinces.

Chinese state media calls for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program were “a wanton violation of the independent and legitimate rights, dignity and supreme interests” of North Korea and constituted “an undisguised threat to an honest-minded neighboring country which has a long history and tradition of friendship,” it said.

The KCNA commentary said calls by “some ignorant politicians and media persons” in China for stricter sanctions on North Korea and not ruling out military intervention if it refused to abandon its nuclear program, were “based on big-power chauvinism.”

It said North Korea’s nuclear program was needed for the “existence and development” of the country and “can never be changed nor shaken.

“The DPRK will never beg for the maintenance of friendship with China,” the commentary said.

(bold italics added)

These words are an emphatic rejection by North Korea of Chinese calls for North Korea to slow down or halt its nuclear weapons programme.  Perhaps the words are bluff, but they strongly suggest that Chinese pressure to slow down or stop North Korea’s nuclear test programme is being resisted – or more probably rejected – in which case Chinese pressure almost certainly was not the reason North Korea did not carry out a nuclear test in April.

Obviously without access to classified intelligence information about the state of North Korea’s nuclear test programme it is impossible to say with any certainty whether or not North Korea planned a nuclear test in April.  However on balance it seems most likely that it did not.

It is difficult to avoid the impression that the reason no war happened in the Korean Peninsula over the course of April is because none was ever intended and that the threats of war that were issuing from the US over the course of that month were simply bluff, intended to intimidate China rather than North Korea.  If so then the reason why there has been no war and why the whole Korean crisis has abruptly dropped out of the news is because when China called the US’s bluff – during the telephone conversation between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump on 23rd April 2017 – the US had no option but to switch the whole ‘crisis’ off.

In a sense this is reassuring.  That Donald Trump was bluffing became increasingly obvious as the whole fake ‘crisis’ unfolded.  The fact that he pulled back shows that he knows how to do this when his bluff is called and moreover that he does it without rancour.

However it is never wise to fabricate an international crisis involving a nuclear armed state like North Korea as a bluff, especially if doing so is inevitably going to lead to the bluff being called.  Hopefully the President has learnt his lesson, and we will see a more conventional approach to diplomacy from the Trump administration in future.

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Bill Rood
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Bill Rood

The bluster on DPRK was simply to distract the US sheeple from the failure of the April 6 Tomahawk cruise missile attack on the al-Shayrat airbase. It needed to be forgotten, and quickly was.

Gonzogal
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Gonzogal

” simply to distract the US sheeple from the failure of the April 6 Tomahawk cruise missile attack on the al-Shayrat airbase. It needed to be forgotten, and quickly was.”

As well as the failure of the MOAB dropped on Afghanistan!

Night Wind
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Night Wind

I suspect what really happened was when Pence visited South Korea and saw first-hand how unprepared for a major war the US military really is. SK has been investigating the US base as a source of drug trafficking. It came out too during the ‘crisis’ that Okinawa, Alaska and Hawaii had no missile defenses and that our electrical grid is so outdated it has no EMP protection. Also our intel services really don’t know what NK’s capabilities really are.

Hamletquest
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Hamletquest

Also as the US intel services are at war with each other over Trump, they probably don’t have the time nor the inclination to be bothered by NK…

Penrose
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Penrose

Is THAAD operational in South Korea? Then the distraction was successful.

Ngoyo
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Ngoyo

This crisis had nothing to do with DPRK nuclear tests or China. Along with the attack on Syria it was aimed purely at the US domestic audience. Trump was distracting/confusing his domestic opponents and seizing the initiative in the the war with them.

DarkEyes
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DarkEyes

Just plain old fashioned psychological warfare. That is all. To be used for “the other activities” carried out by the deep state.

Latest

Ukraine Wants Nuclear Weapons: Will the West Bow to the Regime in Kiev?

Efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation are one of the few issues on which the great powers agree, intending to continue to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and to prevent new entrants into the exclusive nuclear club.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The former Ukrainian envoy to NATO, Major General Petro Garashchuk, recently stated in an interview with Obozrevatel TV:

“I’ll say it once more. We have the ability to develop and produce our own nuclear weapons, currently available in the world, such as the one that was built in the former USSR and which is now in independent Ukraine, located in the city of Dnipro (former Dnipropetrovsk) that can produce these kinds of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Neither the United States, nor Russia, nor China have produced a missile named Satan … At the same time, Ukraine does not have to worry about international sanctions when creating these nuclear weapons.”

The issue of nuclear weapons has always united the great powers, especially following the signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The decision to reduce the number of nuclear weapons towards the end of the Cold War went hand in hand with the need to prevent the spread of such weapons of mass destruction to other countries in the best interests of humanity. During the final stages of the Cold War, the scientific community expended great effort on impressing upon the American and Soviet leadership how a limited nuclear exchange would wipe out humanity. Moscow and Washington thus began START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) negotiations to reduce the risk of a nuclear winter. Following the dissolution of the USSR, the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances persuaded Ukraine to relinquish its nuclear weapons and accede to the NPT in exchange for security assurances from its signatories.

Ukraine has in recent years begun entertaining the possibility of returning to the nuclear fold, especially in light of North Korea’s recent actions. Kim Jong-un’s lesson seems to be that a nuclear deterrent remains the only way of guaranteeing complete protection against a regional hegemon. The situation in Ukraine, however, differs from that of North Korea, including in terms of alliances and power relations. Kiev’s government came into power as a result of a coup d’etat carried out by extremist nationalist elements who seek their inspiration from Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. The long arm of NATO has always been deeply involved in the dark machinations that led to Poroshenko’s ascendency to the Ukrainian presidency. From a geopolitical point of view, NATO’s operation in Ukraine (instigating a civil war in the wake of a coup) follows in the footsteps of what happened in Georgia. NATO tends to organize countries with existing anti-Russia sentiments to channel their Russophobia into concrete actions that aim to undermine Moscow. The war in the Donbass is a prime example.

However, Ukraine has been unable to subdue the rebels in the Donbass region, the conflict freezing into a stalemate and the popularity of the Kiev government falling as the population’s quality of life experiences a precipitous decline. The United States and the European Union have not kept their promises, leaving Poroshenko desperate and tempted to resort to provocations like the recent Kerch strait incident or such as those that are apparently already in the works, as recently reported by the DPR authorities.

The idea of Ukraine resuming its production of nuclear weapons is currently being floated by minor figures, but it could take hold in the coming months, especially if the conflict continues in its frozen state and Kiev becomes frustrated and desperate. The neoconservative wing of the American ruling elite, absolutely committed to the destruction of the Russian Federation, could encourage Kiev along this path, in spite of the incalculable risks involved. The EU, on the other hand, would likely be terrified at the prospect, which would also place it between a rock and a hard place. Kiev, on one side, would be able to extract from the EU much needed economic assistance in exchange for not going nuclear, while on the other side the neocons would be irresponsibly egging the Ukrainians on.

Moscow, if faced with such a possibility, would not just stand there. In spite of Russia having good relations with North Korea, it did not seem too excited at the prospect of having a nuclear-armed neighbor. With Ukraine, the response would be much more severe. A nuclear-armed Ukraine would be a red line for Moscow, just as Crimea and Sevastopol were. It is worth remembering the Russian president’s words when referring to the possibility of a NATO invasion of Crimea during the 2014 coup:

“We were ready to do it [putting Russia’s nuclear arsenal on alert]. Russian people live there, they are in danger, we cannot leave them. It was not us who committed to coup, it was the nationalists and people with extreme beliefs. I do not think this is actually anyone’s wish – to turn it into a global conflict.”

As Kiev stands on the precipice, it will be good for the neocons, the neoliberals and their European lackeys to consider the consequences of advising Kiev to jump or not. Giving the nuclear go-ahead to a Ukrainian leadership so unstable and detached from reality may just be the spark that sets off Armageddon.

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Mike Pompeo lays out his vision for American exceptionalism (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 158.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda take a look at Mike Pompeo’s shocking Brussels speech, where the U.S. Secretary of State took aim at the European Union and United Nations, citing such institutions as outdated and poorly managed, in need of a new dogma that places America at its epicenter.

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Speaking in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unwittingly underscored why nobody takes the United States seriously on the international stage. Via The Council on Foreign Relations


In a disingenuous speech at the German Marshall Fund, Pompeo depicted the transactional and hypernationalist Trump administration as “rallying the noble nations of the world to build a new liberal order.” He did so while launching gratuitous attacks on the European Union, United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF)—pillars of the existing postwar order the United States did so much to create. He remained silent, naturally, on the body blows that the current administration has delivered to its erstwhile allies and partners, and to the institutions that once upon a time permitted the United States to legitimate rather than squander its international leadership.

In Pompeo’s telling, Donald J. Trump is simply seeking a return to the world that former Secretary of State George Marshall helped to create. In the decades after 1945, the United States “underwrote new institutions” and “entered into treaties to codify Western values of freedom and human rights.” So doing, the United States “won the Cold War” and—thanks to the late President George H. W. Bush, “we won the peace” that followed. “This is the type of leadership that President Trump is boldly reasserting.”

That leadership is needed because the United States “allowed this liberal order to begin to corrode” once the bipolar conflict ended. “Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself,” Pompeo explained. “The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done.” What is needed is a multilateralism that once again places the nation-state front and center.

Leave aside for the moment that nobody actually believes what Pompeo alleges: that multilateralism should be an end in itself; that paper commitments are credible absent implementation, verification, and enforcement; or that the yardstick of success is how many bureaucrats get hired. What sensible people do believe is that multilateral cooperation is often (though not always) the best way for nations to advance their interests in an interconnected world of complicated problems. Working with others is typically superior to unilateralism, since going it alone leaves the United States with the choice of trying to do everything itself (with uncertain results) or doing nothing. Multilateralism also provides far more bang for the buck than President Trump’s favored approach to diplomacy, bilateralism.

Much of Pompeo’s address was a selective and tendentious critique of international institutions that depicts them as invariably antithetical to national sovereignty. Sure, he conceded, the European Union has “delivered a great deal of prosperity to the continent.” But it has since gone badly off track, as the “political wake-up call” of Brexit showed. All this raised a question in his mind: “Is the EU ensuring that the interests of countries and their citizens are placed before those of bureaucrats and Brussels?”

The answer, as one listener shouted out, is “Yes!” The secretary, like many U.S. conservative critics of European integration, is unaware that EU member states continue to hold the lion’s share of power in the bloc, which remains more intergovernmental than supranational. Pompeo seems equally unaware of how disastrously Brexit is playing out. With each passing day, the costs of this catastrophic, self-inflicted wound are clearer. In its quest for complete policy autonomy—on ostensible “sovereignty” grounds—the United Kingdom will likely have to accept, as the price for EU market access, an entire body of law and regulations that it will have no say in shaping. So much for advancing British sovereignty.

Pompeo similarly mischaracterizes the World Bank and IMF as having gone badly off track. “Today, these institutions often counsel countries who have mismanaged their economic affairs to impose austerity measures that inhibit growth and crowd out private sector actors.” This is an odd, hybrid critique. It combines a shopworn, leftist criticism from the 1990s—that the international financial institutions (IFIs) punish poor countries with structural adjustment programs—with the conservative accusation that the IFIs are socialist, big-government behemoths. Both are ridiculous caricatures. They ignore how much soul-searching the IFIs have done since the 1990s, as well as how focused they are on nurturing an enabling institutional environment for the private sector in partner countries.

Pompeo also aims his blunderbuss at the United Nations. He complains that the United Nations’ “peacekeeping missions drag on for decades, no closer to peace,” ignoring the indispensable role that blue helmets play in preventing atrocities, as well as a recent Government Accountability Office report documenting how cost-effective such operations are compared to U.S. troops. Similarly, Pompeo claims, “The UN’s climate-related treaties are viewed by some nations simply as a vehicle to redistribute wealth”—an accusation that is both unsubstantiated and ignores the urgent need to mobilize global climate financing to save the planet.

Bizarrely, Pompeo also turns his sights on the Organization of American States (OAS) and the African Union (AU), for alleged shortcomings. Has the OAS, he asks, done enough “to promote its four pillars of democracy, human rights, security, and economic development?” Um, no. Could that have something to do with the lack of U.S. leadership in the Americas on democracy and human rights? Yes. Might it have helped if the Trump administration had filled the position of assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs before October 15 of this year? Probably.

Equally puzzling is Pompeo’s single line riff on the AU. “In Africa, does the African Union advance the mutual interest of its nation-state members?” Presumably the answer is yes, or its members would be headed for the door. The AU continues to struggle in financing its budget, but it has made great strides since its founding in 2002 to better advance security, stability, and good governance on the continent.

“International bodies must help facilitate cooperation that bolsters the security and values of the free world, or they must be reformed or eliminated,” Pompeo declared. Sounds reasonable. But where is this “free world” of which the secretary speaks, and what standing does the United States today have to defend, much less reform it? In the two years since he took office, Donald Trump has never expressed any interest in defending the international order, much less “returning [the United States] to its traditional, central leadership role in the world,” as Pompeo claims. Indeed, the phrase “U.S. leadership” has rarely escaped Trump’s lips, and he has gone out of his way to alienate longstanding Western allies and partners in venues from NATO to the G7.

When he looks at the world, the president cares only about what’s in it for the United States (and, naturally, for him). That cynicism explains the president’s deafening silence on human rights violations and indeed his readiness to cozy up to strongmen and killers from Vladimir Putin to Rodrigo Duterte to Mohammed bin Salman to too many more to list. Given Trump’s authoritarian sympathies and instincts, Pompeo’s warnings about “Orwellian human rights violations” in China and “suppressed opposition voices” in Russia ring hollow.

“The central question that we face,” Pompeo asked in Brussels, “is the question of whether the system as currently configured, as it exists today—does it work? Does it work for all the people of the world?” The answer, of course, is not as well as it should, and not for nearly enough of them. But if the secretary is seeking to identify impediments to a better functioning multilateral system, he can look to his left in his next Cabinet meeting.

“Principled realism” is the label Pompeo has given Trump’s foreign policy. Alas, it betrays few principles and its connection to reality is tenuous. The president has abandoned any pursuit of universal values, and his single-minded obsession to “reassert our sovereignty” (as Pompeo characterizes it) is actually depriving the United States of joining with others to build the prosperous, secure, and sustainable world that Americans want.

“Bad actors have exploited our lack of leadership for their own gain,” the secretary of state declared in Belgium. “This is the poisoned fruit of American retreat.” How true. Pompeo’s next sentence—“President Trump is determined to reverse that”—was less persuasive.

 

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Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

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