Saturday, May 21, 2016

NATO exercises on Russian border: Are these people actually mad?

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. He wrote a memoir of the five years he spent in Hollywood, where he worked in the movie industry prior to becoming a full time activist and organizer with the US antiwar movement post-9/11. The book is titled Dreams That Die and is published by Zero Books. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
© Ints Kalnins
Less than a week after Russia marked its annual Victory Day commemoration of the end of the Second World War, NATO troops began planned military exercises in Estonia all the way up to Russia’s border. It begs the question – are these people actually mad?
Many countries and many people suffered enormously during World War Two. It was the first conflict in history in which technology played a dominant part in the air, on land, and at sea, allowing for the development of weaponry of unparalleled destructive force, power, and reach. Add to this the brutality and barbarism of the fascist ideology that underpinned the war, with its objective of eradicating entire peoples from the earth, the carnage that ensued was inevitable.
No country suffered more than the Soviet Union over the course of the war, and no people suffered more than the Russian people, who made up the vast bulk of the Soviet population. It is estimated that between 25-30 million Russian and Soviet citizens perished, while the country itself was devastated, turned upside down and inside out.
Consequently, this is a conflict that left deep and eternal scars on the Russian psyche. It is something that Western ideologues either fail to understand, or do understand and don’t care. How else are we to explain NATO military exercises in Estonia starting in the wake of the annual Victory Day commemoration? How else are we to explain the said exercises being conducted on the Estonian-Russian border? Above all, how are we to explain that among the 5,000 or so NATO troops taking part are German and Estonian troops?
If this doesn't qualify as a provocation, what does?
Why is the West and NATO intent on pursuing a cold war strategy when it comes to Russia? How can it possibly profit Western countries and their citizens to experience a return to the decades of enmity previous generations endured, with all the dangers that such a state of mutual antagonism brings?
Russia considers its security to be every bit as precious and non-negotiable as the US, UK, France, Germany do theirs, with its people and government reminded of the centrality of security to the nation’s wellbeing each Victory Day. A nation that lost and sacrificed so much in the war against fascism seven decades ago would be remiss if it did not refuse to countenance any attempt to weaken or probe its defenses today. It simply cannot be allowed to happen.
Yet despite what should be a matter of basic logic, we have countries on Russia’s border – Ukraine, Estonia, Georgia et al. – doing their utmost to cause tension and discord. In the case of eastern Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008, conflict was the inevitable result, and is evidence of Washington and the West’s refusal to consider any other option when it comes to relations with Russia than vanquished enemy or deadly foe.
It is also relevant to ponder the benefits the countries on Russia’s border have enjoyed or are enjoying as a result of their turn to the West. Ukraine, the second largest country in Europe after Russia, is today an economic and political basket case. The decision to sever all economic and political ties with Russia has caused living standards to fall by more than 50 percent in a year, while the value of its currency (hryvnia) has dipped by two thirds. Inflation, meanwhile, has risen to a whopping 43 percent.
Forced to rely on IMF bailout loans in order to forestall complete economic collapse, Ukraine is a prime example of Western promises not being matched by Western reality. For Western governments the plight of the Ukrainian people comes low on a list of priorities dominated by strategic and self serving objectives. In other words, if the price of weakening Russia is misery and economic collapse for Ukraine and its people then so be it.
Estonia has fared significantly better than Ukraine as a result of moving into a Western orbit. Indeed, in terms of growth and innovation there is no doubt that Estonia has been a success story, even though its economy is highly indebted to external creditors. 
However the sustainability of Estonia’s economic success and stability is contingent on stable relations with Russia. The more stable those relations the more stable the Estonian economy, and vice versa. It is a simple equation that the Estonian government appears to have great difficulty in grasping, given its desire to join NATO and have NATO forces permanently stationed on its territory.
Such a course can only lead to a bad outcome. Given its recent history, when invasion and occupation decimated its land and people, Moscow cannot be expected to acquiesce to NATO expanding all the way up to its borders. Indeed the very idea is preposterous, and would immediately turn countries such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania from neighboring states into frontline states, with all the potential and inherent dangers involved.
Ultimately, common sense must prevail. The 25-30 million who perished in the war against fascism did not do so in order for Russia to stand idly by while the West, its allies in that struggle, attempts to box it in with what is tantamount to a military, economic, and geopolitical cordon sanitaire.
It really doesn’t have to be this way. Russia and the West do not have to be enemies. They can also be partners. Moreover, in a globalized world facing global threats and challenges, there is no longer any excuse for cold war attitudes. The millions living in the countries concerned deserve better.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Can Russia Survive Washington’s Attack? Paul Craig Roberts

Can Russia Survive Washington’s Attack?
EDITOR'S CHOICE | 21.05.2016

It is not only American generals who are irresponsible and declare on the basis of no evidence whatsoever that “Russia is an existential threat to the United States” and also to the Baltic states, Poland, Georgia, Ukraine, and all of Europe. British generals also participate in the warmongering. UK retired general and former NATO commander Sir Richard Shirreff, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in Europe until 2014, has just declared that nuclear war with Russia is “entirely possible” within the year.  

My loyal readers know that I, myself, have been warning for some time about the likelihood of nuclear war. However, there is a vast difference between me and the Western generals. I see the war as the consequence of the neoconservative drive for US world hegemony. The neoconservative drive for world hegemony is acknowledged by the neoconservatives themselves in their public position papers, and it has a 15-year record of being implemented in America’s many and ongoing wars in the Middle East and Africa. Although the Presstitute media does its best to keep our focus away from the known facts, the facts remain known.
The position of the Western generals is that “Russian aggression” is driving an innocent America/NATO to nuclear war.
Here is General Shirreff’s list of “Russian aggressions”: “He [Putin]has invaded Georgia, he has invaded the Crimea, he has invaded Ukraine. He has used force and got away with it. In a period of tension, an attack on the Baltic states… is entirely plausible.” Shirreff is talking about make-believe happenings that even if real would be taking place inside what were until recently Russia’s long-standing national boundaries.
General Shirreff strikes me as either uninformed or a dissembler. It is the United States and Israel who use force and get away with it. The Russian invasion of the former Russian province, Georgia, was a response to the American puppet government’s invasion of South Ossetia in which the American and Israeli-trained and equipped Georgian troops killed Russian peace-keeping troops and a large number of South Ossetian civilians while the Russian government was at the Beijing Olympics.
It only took a small fraction of the Russian Army a few hours to roll up the American and Israeli trained Georgian Army. Putin had the former Russian province in his hand. He could have hung the American puppet president and reincorporated Georgia back into Russia, where it probably belongs, having spent all of modern history in that location.
But Putin did not see Georgia as a prize, and having made his point, let the Americans have their puppet state back. The president at the time, a scummy scoundrel, was thrown out of the country by Georgians and now serves the American puppet state of Ukraine, like so many others who are not Ukrainian. Apparently, Washington can’t find enough Ukrainians who will sell out their country for Washington and has to bring in foreigners to help Washington rule Ukraine.
There has been, alas, no Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin would not even accept the pleas of the Russian majority populations in the breakaway provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk to be reincorporated back into Russia where they belong. If Putin actually wanted Ukraine, he doesn’t need to send in an army. He can take back the eastern and southern parts just by accepting the pleas of the people to again be a part of Russia.
The only plea that Putin accepted was that of the Crimeans, who with an extremely high turnout never experienced in “western democracies” voted 97.6 percent to rejoin Russia, where Crimea resided for longer than the US has existed, until Khrushchev transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic when both were provinces of the Soviet Union.
Little doubt that Putin accepted Crimea’s plea because Russia’s biggest warm water port and entrance into the Mediterranean Sea is Russia’s naval base in Crimea, and little doubt that Putin refused Donetsk and Luhansk in order to deflect Washington’s propagandistic charges, such as those of former general Shirreff. Putin reasoned, mistakenly in my view, that his refusal to accept Donetsk and Luhansk would reassure Washington’s NATO puppet states and lessen Washington’s influence over Europe. For the corrupt Europeans, facts are of no consequence. Washington’s money prevails.
Putin doesn’t understand the power of Washington’s money. In the entire West onlymoney counts. There is no such thing as Washington’s word, government integrity, truth, or even empirical facts. There are only well-propagated lies. The entire West is a lie. The West exists for one reason only–corporate profits.
The retired general Shirreff claims, without any evidence, which is typical, that Putin “used force and got away with it.”
What force is the general talking about? Can he identify the force? The independent international observers of the Crimean voting report that it was completely fair, that there was no intimidation, no troops or any Russian intimidation present.
The former NATO general Shirreff believes that a Russian attack “on the Baltic states is entirely possible.” For what reason? The Baltic states, former provinces of the Soviet Union, comprise no threat whatsoever to Russia. The Russians have no reason whatsoever to attack the Baltic states. It was Russia that gave the Baltic states their independence. Just as it was Russia that gave Ukraine and Georgia their independence.
Imperial Washington is leveraging the reasonableness of the Russian government to put Russia in a propagandistic light. The Russian government has permitted itself to be put on the defensive and has given the attack to Washington.
Russia has not attacked anyone except the terrorist group ISIS. Allegedly, Washington is opposed to terrorism, but Washington has been using ISIS in an effort to overthrow the Syrian government with terrorism. Russia has put a halt to that. The question before us is whether the Russian government so desires to be accepted by the West that Putin sells out Syria to Washington/Israeli dismemberment in order to show that Russia is a good partner for the West.
If Russia doesn’t get over its affection for the West, Russia will lose its independence.
My understanding is that Russia has been resurrected as a Christian, morally principally country, perhaps the only one on earth. The question that the Russian people and their Russian government need, desperately, to ask themselves is: Do we want to be associated with the War Criminal West that disobeys not only its own laws, but also international laws?
The vast majority of the evil in the world resides in the West. It is the west with its lies and greed that has devastated millions of people in 7 countries during the new 21st century. This is the most threatening beginning of a new millennium in modern times.
Unsatisfied with its looting of the Third World, South America, Greece, Portugal, Latvia, Argentina, and now Brazil and Ukraine, the Western Capitalists have their sights set on Russia, China, India, and South Africa.
What a prize it would be to get Russia with all that vast expanse of Siberia that can be environmentally brutalized and destroyed for capitalist profits. The Russian government’s offering of free land in Siberia had better be limited to Russian citizens. Otherwise, the land is likely to be bought up by the West, which will use its ownership of Russia to destroy the country.
The Russians and the Chinese are blinded by the fact that they lived for decades under oppressive and failed regimes. They look to the West as success. Their misreading of the West endangers their independence. (???????? This is a misjudgement, blogger)
Neither Russia nor China seek conflict. It is a gratuitous and reckless act for Washington to send the message to Russia and China that they must choose vassalage or war.